(navigation image)
Home American Libraries | Canadian Libraries | Universal Library | Community Texts | Project Gutenberg | Children's Library | Biodiversity Heritage Library | Additional Collections
Search: Advanced Search
Anonymous User (login or join us)
Upload
See other formats

Full text of "Stories of the Cherokee hills"

C^e lifirarp 

ottl)e 

Onit3et0itp of Botth 




anH 

4©Silant5ropic ^mttitQ 

■LJP^OTTTpSe-B. (;^ ^ 

Storifts -ofHrKe. Che-rokre. 



THE UNIVERSITY OF 

NORTH CAROLINA 

LIBRARY 




THE WILMER COLLECTION 

OF CIVIL WAR NOVELS 

PRESENTED BY 

RICHARD H. WILMER, JR. 



Digitized by the Internet Archive 

in 2010 with funding from 

University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill 



http://www.archive.org/details/storiesofcherokeOOthom 



•33oofes bp iJlauricc Cbampson. 



POEMS. Crown 8vo, J I. so. 

A TALLAHASSEE GIRL. A Novel. i6mo, 

Ji.oo ; paper, 50 cents. 
STORIES OF THE CHEROKEE HILLS. 

Illustrated. i2mo, $1.50. 

HOUGHTON, MIFFLIN & CO. 
Boston and New York. 




'JUDAS! YOU OLD COON !" — " MARS BEN !" (Page 72) 



STORIES OF 
THE CHEROKEE HILLS 



BY 



MAURICE THOMPSON 




BOSTON AND NEW YORK 
HOUGHTON, MIFFLIN AND COMPANY 



COPYRIGHT, 189S, BY MAURICE THOMPSON 
ALL RIGHTS RHSERVED 



CONTENTS 

Page 

Color-Line Jocundities i 

Ben and Judas 34 

Hodson's Hide-Out 78 

Rudgis and Grim 115 

A Race Romance 139 

A Dusky Genius 169 

The Balance of Power 216 



LIST OF ILLUSTRATIONS 

Page 

" Judas ! you old coon ! " — " Mars Ben ! " 
(Page 72) Frontispiece 

Side by side on the sandy bank of the 

STREAM 48 

"W-w-w'at Dave is yer tarkin' 'bout?" . 102 

Grim 116 

He filled his pipe, and lighted it . .134 

"Call me Mr. Marting" 160 

He watched this strange procession . . 166 
Judge Dillard 178 



STORIES OF THE CHEROKEE 
HILLS 



COLOR-LINE JOCUNDITIES 

History is the record of closed periods, 
the presentation of what mankind has lost 
and gained in the course of progress. 
When I was a boy Bud Peevy said to me : 
" Ef ye 'r' a-hankerin' ter know what ye 
don't want ter know, jes' ax a ole man what 
he thinks o' a young un." Bud was, him- 
self, neither young nor old. " I kin look 
both ways," he often remarked, "an' see 
back inter the what wus an' for'rd inter the 
goin' ter be. They's both poorty much 
erlike. What wus did n't sat'sfy nobody, 
an' what 's er goin' ter be '11 never make no 
livin' soul happy. We loses an' we finds ; 
but we never finds ag'in what we loses, an' 



2 COLOR-LINE JOCUNDITIES 

we never has a dern thing wo'th er huntin' 
fer when we 've lost it." I am neither ac- 
cepting nor rejecting Bud Peevy's philo- 
sophy ; what I feel is that history must be 
valuable in proportion to the accuracy of 
its details, and that its most precious de- 
tails are those incidents of human life that 
flicker along the vanishing line by which 
the close of every period of civilization is 
momentarily marked. 

Early in my childhood our family went 
to live on a lonely estate amid the moun- 
tains of Cherokee Georgia. The farmstead 
was circled around by foothills, above which 
in all directions blue peaks kissed the rim 
of a heaven that looked like the half of a 
pale blue bird-egg shell turned hollow side 
down. All of our neighbors and friends 
were mountaineers, and I grew up a moun- 
taineer boy. I spoke the mountain lingo, 
wore the mountain garb, conformed to all 
the customs and manners of the mountain 
folk for many years, and, indeed, was 
scarcely less than to the manner born. 



COLOR-LINE JOCUNDITIES 3 

With a flint-lock, " whole-stock " rifle I 
shot in competition at the matches for beef 
and turkey ; I danced at many a cabin ball 
where the fiddler played " Natchez under 
the Hill," " Black-Eyed Susan," " Cotton- 
Eyed Joe," and " Flat Woods," and where 
the loose board floor rattled merrily under 
our jigging feet. I went to singing-school 
and to class-meeting, to weddings and to 
funerals, to still-house meets ; I went coon- 
hunting by torchlight, chestnut-hunting on 
the mountain tops, 'possum-hunting in the 
bottom lands, and was always present at 
the particular justice court ground where 
a fight was expected. Moreover I chewed 
" mounting-twist " tobacco and smoked the 
same, until I became aware of better hab- 
its and reformed. 

Certainly in those wild, free days I did 
not dream of "local color" or of literary 
materials. It was a mountaineer who 
taught me the use of the longbow ; but I 
never expected to use it in history, or in 



4 COLOR-LINE JOCUNDITIES 

fiction, not more than I looked forward 
to the influence that Theocritus — whose 
Idylls were even then being drilled into 
me by a private tutor — might have upon 
my unthought-of poetry. Yet it must be 
seen that my life was flushing itself, flood- 
ing me, with the elements that have per- 
force entered into the sketches here offered 
to the historian of American civilization. 

When the great war came on I went 
into it, hot-headed, unthinking, a mere 
boy, bubbling over with enthusiasm for 
the South and its cause. Fortune so di- 
rected that I was to be a mountaineer even 
in military life, and for many months I 
served as a scout in the rugged, billowy 
region of North Georgia, North Alabama, 
and East Tennessee. At the close of the 
war I went back to our home in the hills, 
resuming for a while the old life ; as Bud 
Peevy would say : " A livin' 'twixt starva- 
tion an' the 'tater patch," with a book in 
one hand and a hoe in the other, while a 



COLOR-LINE JOCUNDITIES 5 

vague yet irresistible impulse compelled 
me to seek literary expression. Then men 
and women began to be objects of absorb- 
ing curiosity. I studied them with hungry 
persistence, but found myself attempting 
to describe and portray only the men and 
women that I had read about ; and it was 
not until after I had gone into Indiana and 
made my home there that I became aware 
of the Southern mountaineer as a persist- 
ent and insistent supplicant for portraiture 
at my hands. 

Now, albeit the war was ended, politics 
had taken on the bitterness engendered by 
the reconstruction troubles, and when these 
sketches on the " color-line," written early 
in the seventies, were offered to editors 
they were promptly rejected, on the ground 
that "fiction in any way connected with 
the recent war in the South and its re- 
sults " could not fail to '* engender ill feel- 
ing and do injury to both writer and pub- 
lisher." So my stories of slavery, war, 



6 COLOR-LINE JOCUNDITIES 

emancipation, and reconstruction in the 
Southern mountain region were cast aside 
and lay in the manuscript for years, until 
at last, after I had printed other stories, 
and after the impression of the great war 
had somewhat softened, I offered one of 
them, entirely rewritten and very much 
changed, to the "Century Magazine" under 
the title, " Hodson's Hide-Out," and it was 
promptly accepted and printed. The other 
stories in this volume followed, all, except 
" The Balance of Power," appearing at in- 
tervals in the " Century ; " the last named 
story was printed in " Harper's Magazine," 
and to the editors of these great publica- 
tions I am indebted for the privilege of 
offering this book to the world. 

The reader will not need to be told that 
these bits of fiction were written with the 
purpose to fix in imperishable, even if 
crude, form the curious effects wrought by 
negro slavery upon the lives of the illiter- 
ate, stubborn, and absolutely independent 



COLOR-LINE JOCUNDITIES 7 

dwellers among the arid and almost inac- 
cessible mountains of the South. I knew 
my people, and little as I could trust my 
art, I could not doubt the accuracy or the 
value of that knowledge, no matter how 
imperfectly it might be set in literature. 

There is no caricature in these stories ; 
the mist of fiction and the sheen of imagi- 
nation have not distorted the main facts as 
I saw them in their day. Slavery in the 
mountains was very little like slavery in the 
low country, and the reader need not hesi- 
tate to accept as true, albeit clothed upon 
with romance, the singular features most 
prominent in these excerpts from a life not 
to be measured by the standard of any 
other. The story of " Ben and Judas " 
represents not Middle Georgia proper, but 
rather the hill country now called " Pied- 
mont Georgia," where it borders the real 
mountain region. I give it first place be- 
cause it was first written (although " Hod- 
son's Hide-Out" preceded it in publica- 



8 COLOR-LINE JOCUNDITIES 

tion, as I have said), and because it sounds 
the key-note of my purpose. 

The mountaineers proper rarely owned 
slaves ; only here and there one had been 
willing or able to buy a black. Of course 
there were many prosperous farmers in 
the Cherokee country, many wealthy slave- 
owners ; but they were not mountaineers. 
Indeed, nearly all of the rich " river-bot- 
tom " lands and most of the fertile valley 
plantations were the property of aristo- 
cratic low-country planters, who had come 
into the hills after the " land-lottery " days. 
The mountaineers clung to the "pockets" 
and coves, preferring the broken country 
far from railroads and towns. One or two 
negroes could be found on some of the for- 
lorn little farms where accident or unusual 
thrift had favored a man like Rudgis, and 
in a few cases a master like Dillard was a 
fair example of a hybrid, neither a moun- 
taineer nor a low-countryman. 

It struck me that the attitude of the 



COLOR-LINE JOCUNDITIES 9 

mountaineer toward slavery and emanci- 
pation would give just the touch of serio- 
comic oddity needed to set the "vanishing 
line " of the old regime most tellingly be- 
fore the public. The impression haunted 
me so that I returned to the mountain 
country and studied over again the details 
of life there, collecting from every available 
source the materials used in my sketches. 
When these were refused by the editors 
upon both business and political grounds, 
I felt to a degree the justice of the criti- 
cism, considering the state of public senti- 
ment at both the North and the South just 
then. And even when the stories did 
appear in the magazines, they were stren- 
uously objected to by some Southern 
extremists as being favorable to Northern 
prejudices, while, on the other hand, many 
Northern readers, especially in New Eng- 
land, castigated me severely for my sym- 
pathy with the slaveholder and the " Lost 
Cause " ! Between the two armies of ob- 



lO COLOR-LINE JOCUNDITIES 

jectors I felt timid about printing the 
stories in book form, and so they have lain 
until now. 

I would not have it understood that I 
magnify the importance of these stories, as 
stories. I am keenly aware of their many 
imperfections. They are offered as side- 
lights to history. Dunk Roe of Pinelog 
assured me in a talk, written down in 1896, 

— a late date in the breaking-up period, 

— that " ef er feller air inter a noshen thet 
er nigger air es good es er white man, thet 
air feller needs hell three times er day." 
But Dunk Roe was, and probably still is, 
a politician to be classed morally with 
those Northerners who deem it their duty 
to cram the negro forcibly into the cars, 
the theatres, the schools, and the churches 
built, owned, and operated by white South- 
erners for the use of white Southerners. 

The color-line is not a line of disgrace to 
black or white. There would be no trou- 
ble on it, if it were respected by man as 



COLOR-LINE JOCUNDITIES II 

thoroughly as God respected it in creating 
the two races. Dunk Roe said : " God 
A'mighty air 'sponsible fer the black on er 
nigger an' fer the white on er white man. 
Hit ain't no disgrace fer er nigger ter be 
er nigger, ner fer er white man ter be er 
white man. Hit air w'en er nigger tries 
ter be white, an' er white man wrassles ter 
be er nigger, 'at the disgrace comes in." 
The " Race Romance " exhibits a white 
man who felt called upon to do missionary 
work with the purpose of reversing the 
order of things on the color-line. Peevy 
says that " what thet air nigger finally an' 
everlastin'ly done ter thet dern white man 
do p'intedly show jes' what 'd happing ter 
all the white folks o' this kentry ef them 
dad ding nigger-lovers hed ther way." 

In writing these sketches it was my aim 
to occupy an impartial point of view. I 
told my old friend Brimson, some time 
before his experiment wrecked him, that 
I had no argument to offer for or against 



12 COLOR-LINE JOCUNDITIES 

the theory that he so enthusiastically main- 
tained ; but Dunk Roe spoke freely to 
him, in nearly these words : — 

" Brimson, hit air er fac' 'at ye hain't got 
half sense ; but er dern fool orter know 'at 
ye cayn't edicate er nigger in fifteen 
minutes so 'at he kin be like er white man. 
Hit hev tuck erbout er million years to 
edicate the white man an' mek 'im reason- 
able decent ; an' how the dernation kin ye 
'spect tertek er eejit nigger an' mek a ekal 
ter the white man of 'im ? An' 'spacially 
wi' er triflin' ole sap-head, like ye air, fer 
ter do it." 

In the course of my latest inquiries I 
talked with an intelligent old negro named 
Tuck Baker, an original character, if there 
ever was one. Before and during the war 
he belonged to 'Squire Baker on Pinelog. 
I inquired about him before seeing him, 
and was not surprised when, to one of my 
direct questions, he made answer : — 

"Ya-a-s, sah, boss, I done voted one 



COLOR-LINE JOCUNDITIES 13 

time at de 'lection, an' dat 's 'nuff fo' Tuck. 
Ya-a-s, sah." 

He wagged his grizzled woolly head and 
grinned with reminiscent opulence of ex- 
pression, his face shining like a gargoyle 
polished with lampblack. 

" Ya-a-s, sah, I done put in one vote, an' 
cotch it in de yea' good an' hard fo' it; 
ya-a-s, sah." 

" How was that. Tuck .? " I inquired with 
insinuating emphasis. 

" How wus it ? Yo' ax how wus it ? 
Well, sah, boss, hit wus lak er bein' kicked 
wid er fo' yea' ole mule ; dat 's jes' 'zac'ly 
how it wus." 

Tuck was a huge man ; nor had his 
sixty-five years lessened the solidity of his 
ebon bulk of muscles. As he stood before 
me, grinning and gazing aslant reflectively, 
he gave me the fullest impression of half- 
savage humor strongly affected by a very 
noteworthy and wholly comical recollec- 
tion. 



14 COLOR-LINE JOCUNDITIES 

" Ya-a-s, sah, boss, I chuck one vote in- 
ter de box ; an' I wus er feelin' ez big es er 
skinned boss on dat 'casion, kase dem whi' 
men wus all stan'in' roun' er lookin' at me 
while I say : ' Yar go my senterments ; ' 
an' jes' den I feel somep'n'." 

He chuckled and shook his head with a 
certain indescribable expression of jocund- 

ity. 

" Ya-a-s, sah, I feel somep'n' what jar dis 
yer ole haid same lak er bar'l er co'n been 
drap on it. I 'spec I went er whollopin' 
heel ober haid pooty nigh erbout seben- 
teen feet en struck de groun' on de back 
o' my haid. Ya-a-s, sah, I did fall outda- 
cious hard; en den I year er whi' man 
say : ' Dat 's my senterments, yo darn black 
whelp!' Ya-a-s, sah, dat's jes' w'at he say, 
en he 's de one 'at hit me en mighty nigh 
bus' my haid." 

He pressed his big black hand on his ear, 
as if he still felt the effect of the buffet. 

" Ya-a-s, sah, I 's not b'en er doin' berry 



COLOR-LINE JOCUNDITIES 1$ 

much votin' sence dat day. Yah, yah, 
yahee ! " 

His laugh was atrociously, barbarously 
charged with delight in his reminiscence. 

" Boss," he presently added, " is yo' 
'quainted wid Mistah Bud Peeby ? " 

I nodded affirmatively. 

" Well, sah, boss, 't wus him 'at knock de 
votin' notion clean out 'n me. Yah, yah, 
yahee-e-e ! " 

And between Brimson and Peevy lies 
an area which, doubtless, is the land of the 
golden mean. Tuck seemed satisfied, nay 
stimulated, as he thus sketched, with dra- 
matic strokes distinctly African, his one 
experience at the polls ; and I saw that he 
fully realized the beauty of the inevitable. 

" Ya-a-s, sah, boss," he remarked in con- 
clusion, giving his clouted trousers an up- 
ward jerk, " ya-a-s, sah, boss, I done retired 
fom polertics, sho 's yo' bo'n ! I done ater- 
wards tole Mistah Bud Peeby 'at it seem 
lak his senterments is mo' stronger 'n mine. 



l6 COLOR-LINE JOCUNDITIES 

Ya-a-s, sail, I done tole 'm dat. No, sah, 
boss, I 's not hongry ter vote no mo', yah, 
yah, yahee-e-e ! Sho 's yo' bo'n I 's done 
fill plum' full an' er runnin' ober, — I done 
got er plenty; don' wush no mo'. I done 
tole Mistah Bud Peeby 'at he kin do my 
votin' fo' me ; ya-a-s, sah." 

Upon the whole, however, the change 
from master and slave to boss and freed- 
man has generated no deep troubles. 
Peevy and Tuck are excellent friends as 
they toe the color-line. They regard each 
other with humorous respect, comprehend- 
ing the situation far more clearly than do 
the good zealots who from afar off shout 
for equality. The black and white are ar- 
ranging the difficult details of their rela- 
tions by the law of Nature, a law which no 
legislative body can successfully modify or 
amend, which no earthly power can repeal. 
And what a picturesque civilization the 
two colors are forming! 

The line fades more slowly in the moun- 



COLOR-LINE JOCUNDITIES 1/ 

tain region than it does in the most aristo- 
cratic part of the low country. Education 
is a sponge that wipes out prejudice, which 
is the only real stumbling-block of Chris- 
tian people black and white. But educa- 
tion proceeds slowly when it has to climb 
rocky steeps and stumble along inhospi- 
table fells. Besides, the mountaineers re- 
sent every hint of change, every sugges- 
tion from outside their customs and habits, 
every apparition of authority; and they 
cannot understand how a man, sitting away 
off yonder as a court of law, can have the 
right to send another man, as a sheriff, to 
meddle with their affairs. Hodson had no 
conception of the right of Confederate or 
Federal officials to order him into war or 
to bid him let go his slave. So the distil- 
ler of " mounting jew " whiskey at this mo- 
ment has no sense of transgression on his 
part, when he resists the revenue squad ; 
but it seems certain to him that the gov- 
ernment is an outlaw. 



l8 COLOR-LINE JOCUNDITIES 

" Hit use ter be right fer every man 'at 
wanted to ter build 'im er still-house an' 
mek all the licker 'at he wushed to," said 
Lige Hackett, " an' I jes' cay n't see how 
hit 's any wronger now 'an hit wus then. 
I 'd jes' shoot seving diffe'nt sorts o' liver 
an' lights outen any gov'ment jay-hawker 
'at 'ud kem foolin' 'roun' my place er biz- 
ness, an' don't ye fergit it ! " 

Now, in the days when I was a moun- 
taineer I rolled all of these elementary 
philosophic peculiarities under my tongue 
as morsels sweet as honey-wax from Arca- 
dia. With every breath from the hills of 
Habersham, with every waft from Rabun, 
or Estell, or from the wild pockets of 
Dade, I drew in unlimited love of savage, 
absolute freedom. I got firmly footed 
upon the ground occupied by Peevy and 
Rudgis and Hodson. But I trod the color- 
line with a full appreciation also of those 
genial and faithful grotesques who ploughed 
and hoed and sang so blithely in the fields 



COLOR-LINE JOCUNDITIES 19 

of corn and cotton. Ah ! the old days, — 
call them quasi-feudal, call them a faded 
and feeble reflection of medieval romance, 
give them what bitter name you will, — I 
tell you that they were like old mellow wine, 
and the smack of them can never quit the 
tongue that tasted them. The dance in 
the big house and the hoe-down in the 
kitchen, it were hard to say which was the 
merrier. The blacks worked ; but never 
before, since Eve ate and Adam gorged to 
purchase a curse, did laborers seem to have 
so good a time at their tasks. The whites 
played from morning till night ; yet all 
play and no work did not sour the life they 
lived. 

The few negroes owned by mountain- 
eers were coddled as precious pet animals 
sometimes are. Even men like Peevy were 
over-indulgent masters, strictly as they in- 
sisted upon every formality of the color- 
line. The story of " Ben and Judas" indi- 
cates one of the curious results of constant 



20 COLOR-LINE JOCUNDITIES 

and long personal familiarity between ex- 
ceptional individuals of the two races where 
the slackest state of thralldom and the 
warmest sort of sympathy ruled conditions. 
It is a sketch from life. In my childhood 
I knew the men, and in my youth I heard 
the story of the melon-patches and the 
prayer over the delicious plunder. Indeed, 
it was while on a pedestrian ramble in 
" Piedmont Georgia," as the late Mr. 
Grady, the gifted editor and orator, named 
the lower hill country, that I (searching 
for a few bits of local color needed in re- 
vising "Ben and Judas") fell upon high 
fortune in making the acquaintance of 
Mr. Hector Aaron Lifter, M. A. He was 
a clever yellow man, a graduate and post 
graduate of an obscure Northern college, 
and absorbed in self-conceit while osten- 
sibly doing educational missionary work 
among the blacks, whom he patronizingly 
spoke of as " My people." 

I had little to do with Lifter ; but I am 



COLOR-LINE JOCUNDITIES 21 

infinitely indebted to him for a collection 
of curious rhymes and crude ditties picked 
up by him during two or three years of 
commendable research and inquiry. Not 
a few of the pieces in this collection have 
been familiar to me from childhood ; but 
there are many that appear to be of more 
recent origin. Slaves were fond of gro- 
tesque music, which they often attempted 
to imitate in metre and rhyme. Here are 
a few examples of negro word-melody : — 

« Mule colt, 
Shuck coUah, 
Blame mule 
Eat de coUah, 
Cost ole massa 
Half er doUah." 

" Hi, oh, Mariley come down de mountain, 

Ho, Mariley, ho-o-oh ! 
Wid er sta' on 'is breas' an' er ring on 'is finger, 

Ho, Mariley, ho-o-oh ! 
Hi, oh, Mariley look like er preacher, 

Ho, Mariley, ho-o-oh ! 
But de Debbil tuck er chunk an' he burnt ole Mariley, 

Ho, Mariley, ho-o-oh ! " 



22 COLOR-LINE JOCUNDITIES 

Both of the foregoing examples are corn 
songs, that is, they were sung mostly at 
corn-huskings by night ; but the following 
are field songs, probably improvised by 
ploughmen while trudging in the fragrant 
furrows across the bottom lands: — 

" Grow, co'n, grow in de new groun' bottom, 

Grow, co'n, grow, yi ho-o-o ! 
Yd' heah me, co'n, den lissen w'at I tole yo', 
Grow, co'n, grow, ho-ee-hoee, ho ! " 

"Dey's er gal in de kitchen er bakin' de braid. 
Hilly, hally, hally ho, hi ho ! 
En dat gal's eye sorty twinkle in 'er haid. 
Hilly ho, hally ho, hi ho-o-o ! " 

" Chicken, O chicken, is ye gwine ter roos' low ? 

Roos' low, roos' low. 
Fo' de big pot 's er biiin' ober de fire, 

Roos' low, roos' low, 
En po' ole nig cay n't climb much higher, 

Roos' low, roos' low ! " 

" Runt pig, runt pig, is yo' sho' yo' knows me ? 

Piggy> Piggy> pig. Pigoo ! 
Dey 's er nubbin er co'n in de basket fo' yo', 
Pigoo, pigoo, pigoo ! 



COLOR-LINE JOCUNDITIES 23 

Runt pig, runt pig, fatten up faster, 

P'ggy» piggy, pig. Pigoo ' 

En w'en yo' 's gone ole mars' won't miss yo', 
Pigoo, pigoo, pigoo ! " 

The pieces that are probably of early 
post-slavery date have an unwelcome touch 
of self-conscious sentiment in them. I 
need quote but one : — 

" De ole time gone en I go too, 

De ole time gone erway. 
Dey 's no mo' light in cabin doo', 

De ole time gone erway. 
Wha' dem chill'en ? Wha' ole mudder ? 

De ole time gone erway. 
Wha' ole marstah ? Wha' ole mist'ess ? 

De ole time gone erway." 

But Paul Dunbar has shown that the 
native strain of poetry in the negro's na- 
ture can find much nobler utterance than 
these crude bits would have seemed to 
promise. I quote them merely to give 
the warrant I had for introducing certain 
negro songs of my own as coming from 
the lips of my black people. And it is 



24 COLOR-LINE JOCUNDITIES 

well to note here that the negroes of the 
highlands were far more merry, genial, and 
musical than those of the lowlands. I once 
made a voyage down the Coosawattee 
River in a corn boat manned by negroes. 
Our way led us between incomparably rich 
plantations lying on either side of the 
stream ; but it was only now and then that 
we could see the fields, the banks being 
high and densely fringed with reeds. One 
of our crew had what the negroes called 
" quills ; " it was a rude syrinx, made (ex- 
actly to the ancient pattern) of graduated 
cane joints fastened together in a row, on 
which he played a barbaric tune while 
some of the others patted and danced. 

In the night from the distant plantation 
quarters we often heard answering quills, 
whose strains softened by remoteness 
struck my sense with an indescribable 
dreamy pathos. One evening, while we 
lingered at an obscure ferry, a small party 
of slaves in charge of a good-natured over- 



COLOR-LINE JOCUNDITIES 25 

seer came down the little clay road to the 
river, and spent awhile with us before 
crossing. One huge black fellow begged 
the quills from our man, and blew so 
sweetly on it that the tune roUics in my 
memory to this day. Another fellow, a 
stripling with a face which was nearly all 
mouth, sang a ditty of which I can give 
but one stanza : — 

" Side-meat en sweet 'taters eat mighty good, 
En my gal 's er gwine home in de mo'nin' ; 
Debbil say he 'bout ter die, don' yo' wush he would ? 

En my gal 's er gwine home in de mo'nin' ; 
Hip, hi, shuffle knee high, 

Fo' my gal 's er gwine home in de mo'nin'." 

It was the sunny -minded, optimistic 
negroes whose slavery days fell among the 
mountains, and when one of them belonged 
to a true highlander there was little dan- 
ger that thralldom would be more or less 
than an idyllic experience, well worth pre- 
serving in art far more beautiful than 
mine. In one of my notebooks I find the 



26 COLOR-LINE JOCUNDITIES 

following nearly verbatim report of what 
Steve Iley told me about his negro : — 

" He war nat'ly no ercount ; but he cud 
play the banjer an' sing ter everlastin'. 
Folks use ter come clean f'om Ellijay " (a 
county seat fifteen miles distant) "to yer 
'im pick an' sing 'is songs. I use to swa' 
ter myself 'at I 'd whirp 'im fo' not workin'; 
but he war so dad burn comic 'at I jes' 
cud n't keep f'om laughin' at 'im." 

"And what became of him?" I inquired. 

" Wat 'come er my nigger Tom ? Oh, 
he 's er livin' over the mounting yander. 
Wen the wa' freed 'im I druv 'im off'n my 
place 'cause he called me ' boss,' the dad 
burn ole vilyan." 

I have never been able to hear of a single 
negro who has habitually used the word 
master since the war in personally address- 
ing his former owner, and the mountain- 
eer does not take kindly to being called 
boss. 

That genial and gifted man, the author 



COLOR-LINE JOCUNDITIES 2/ 

of the " Uncle Remus " books, is of the 
opinion that Southern slaves knew but 
little about the banjo ; the fiddle, he thinks, 
was their chief musical instrument. I 
make no controversy, and only know that 
in the mountains the white men fiddled 
and the blacks " picked de banjer." Many 
a time all night long have I obeyed the 
commands : "Swing yer pardners an' circle 
ter the lef," " Sighshay," " First gentleman 
ter the lef, " " Balernce all," and the like, 
to the music of a home-made banjo played 
by a negro ; but this was of course only 
when a fiddler could not be had. 

I shall never forget an orchestra that we 
were honored with one night at the spa- 
cious cabin of Jere Borders, somewhere 
near the head waters of the Salliquoy. An 
octogenarian white fiddler, a fat negro 
banjoist, and a " straw drummer " were the 
musicians. The straw drummer's business 
was to beat time upon the fiddle strings 
during the playing. Late in the evening 



28 COLOR-LINE JOCUNDITIES 

there was a misunderstanding, and most of 
us quit dancing and began a lively fight. 
Out went all the lights, save that from a 
flickering pine knot on the hearth, and 
there was hot work for five minutes in the 
dark. When it was all over, and we 
thought it time to resume the dance. Hank, 
the fat black banjoist, was missing, and 
after some search we found him up the 
chimney, where he was wedged in so fast 
that we had to pull him down by the legs; 
but so carefully had he guarded his beloved 
instrument that it was not even out of 
tune ! It was that banjo of Hank's from 
which came the main suggestion of " A 
Dusky Genius." Hank himself took great 
delight in explaining to me how he wrought 
the rude yet beautiful lute, the head of 
which was covered with a translucent 
opossum-skin. 

My own first lessons in banjo-picking 
were received from " old John," the coal- 
black property of Mr. Joseph Wilson, 



COLOR-LINE JOCUNDITIES 29 

whose plantation lay on the Coosawattee, 
about seven miles northeast of Calhoun in 
Gordon County, Georgia. Later a friend, 
Mr. John O'Callaghan, of the same town, 
left in my possession for some years an 
excellent instrument made by a negro. 
Indeed, I know that the slaves of the 
mountain region were in many instances 
very ingenious and skillful mechanics as 
well as musicians. A curious lute was 
made by one darkey thus : A gourd vine 
was trained to grow along the ground, and 
when a young gourd began to form, two 
broad boards were driven parallel firmly 
into the earth in such a position that as 
the gourd grew it was forced to take a flat 
form between them. When it had ripened 
and hardened it was scraped and polished, 
the handle sawed off, the insides neatly re- 
moved. Then a banjo-neck was fitted on, 
sound-holes cut, a bridge and strings put 
on, and lo ! a banjo, the dry, hollow, thinly 
flattened gourd serving as the body ; and 



30 COLOR-LINE JOCUNDITIES 

a comical instrument it was, feeble, stu- 
pid sounding, but yet giving forth true 
notes. 

The story entitled " The Balance of 
Power " brings another slight change on 
the color-line. Political currents swirled 
at random for some time in the South be- 
fore the whites fairly got things to going 
their own way. In the low country the 
outcome has been through constitutional 
amendment, limiting the exercise of the 
elective franchise to citizens of lawful age 
who can read and satisfactorily explain to 
the proper board a section of the state or- 
ganic law. Of course the board is com- 
posed of white men, and when I was in 
northern Mississippi, soon after the con- 
stitutional change began to operate in 
that State, I made some inquiries regard- 
ing the effect of it. I had followed the 
subsiding billows of the great Sand Moun- 
tain disturbance across Alabama, and was 
now beating around among the farewell 



COLOR-LINE JOCUNDITIES 31 

hills. Aaron Harper explained the mat- 
ter to me. Said he : — 

" I never went ter no school, an' never 
hed no I'arnin', an' hit s'prised me mighty 
nigh inter fits w'en I suddently found out 
'at I could read. Hit wus this way : I goes 
down ter town 'lection day ter vote, an' 
there 's ebout two hundred niggers tromp- 
in' eroun' on thet same business ; but nary 
er dern one o' 'em could read thet conster- 
tootion. Well, sa', w'at ye s'pose I done 
w'en they stuck thet air docymint under 
my nose ? " 

" You were in a pretty close place," I 
ventured. 

" Close place, nothin'," he remarked in a 
tone of vast contempt. " Ye s'pose I wus 
goin' ter stan' 'roun' ther' er suckin' my 
thumb, like them dern niggers, an' not 
vote?" 

" But what could you do ? " I demanded. 

"Do.? What'd I do?" he repeated, 
with a peculiar sardonic grin. " W'y, I jes' 



32 COLOR-LINE JOCUNDITIES 

nat'ly grabbed thet constertootion an' read 
it for'd an' back'rds an' sideways an' edge- 
ways, thet 's w'at I done ; an' I 'splained 
ever single dern word o' it ter them jedges 
jes' like er loryer ter a jury. Vote ? I 
cud er voted seving times ef I 'd wanted 
ter. An' nary dern nigger got er smell ! " 

I laughed, of course. 

" Hit air sorter funny," he admitted, with 
a wink, " an' I s'pec' 'at I won't be able ter 
read er nother dad burn word tell nex' 
'lection ! " 

Up in the true mountain country the 
negroes have never given any very great 
political trouble ; but in a few localities, 
under stress of a particularly close and ex- 
citing squabble for office, the balance of 
power has been negatively, if not positively, 
controlled by the colored element. Curi- 
ously enough, the candidate who has 
gained this deciding increment has been 
invariably defeated ; nor is this rule likely 
to be changed in the future. The balance 



COLOR-LINE JOCUNDITIES 33 

of power, like every other political gift 
accidentally tossed to the negroes by a 
grotesque fortune, is but a huge joke to 
be cracked on the color-line. 

But notwithstanding the humor of these 
slowly fading conditions, the facts under 
them are grim, dense, imperishable ; they 
demand respectful and unprejudiced treat- 
ment in art and history, as registering the 
vanishing-point of a tremendous old-time 
influence and the starting-point of a new 
regime in the hill country. What a period 
of romance the old slavery time was ; and 
yet it had no romancer ! What a life of 
poetry; but it had no poet! What a cycle 
of history ; yet not a historian to record it ! 
What an epic ; and never a Homer ! What 
a tragedy ; but not a Sophocles, not a 
Shakespeare ! 



BEN AND JUDAS 

On a dark and stormy summer night, 
early in the present century, two male chil- 
dren were born on the Wilson plantation 
in middle Georgia. One of the babes 
came into the world covered with a skin 
as black as the night, the other was of that 
complexion known as sandy ; one was 
born a slave, the other a free American 
citizen. Two such screeching and squall- 
ing infants never before or since assaulted 
simultaneously the peace of the world. 
Such lungs had they, and such vocal 
chords, that cabin and mansion fairly shook 
with their boisterous and unrhythmical 
wailing. The white mother died, leaving 
her chubby, kicking, bawling offspring to 
share the breast of the more fortunate col- 
ored matron with the fat, black, howling 



BEN AND JUDAS 35 

hereditary dependent thereto ; and so Ben 
and Judas, master and slave, began their 
companionship at the very fountain of life. 
They grew, as it were, arm in arm and 
quite apace with each other, as healthy 
boys will, crawling, then toddling, anon 
running on the sandy lawn between the 
cabin and the mansion, often quarreling, 
sometimes fighting vigorously. Soon 
enough, however, Judas discovered that, 
by some invisible and inscrutable decree, 
he was slave to Ben, and Ben became aware 
that he was rightful master to Judas. The 
conditions adjusted themselves to the lives 
of the boys in a most peculiar way. The 
twain became almost inseparable, and grew 
up so intimately that Judas looked like the 
black shadow of Ben. If one rode a horse, 
the other rode a mule; if the white boy 
habitually set his hat far back on his head, 
the negro did the same ; if Ben went swim- 
ming or fishing, 'there went Judas also. 
And yet Ben was forever scolding Judas 



36 BEN AND JUDAS 

and threatening to whip him, a proceeding 
treated quite respectfully and as a matter 
of course by the slave. Wherever they 
went Ben walked a pace or two in advance 
of Judas, who followed, however, with ex- 
actly the consequential air of his master, 
and with a step timed to every peculiarity 
observable in the pace set by his leader. 
Ben's father, who became dissipated and 
careless after his wife's death, left the boy 
to come up rather loosely, and ther^ was 
no one to make a note of the constantly 
growing familiarity between the two youths; 
nor did any person chance to observe how 
much alike they were becoming as time 
slipped away. Ben's education was neg- 
lected, albeit now and again a tutor was 
brought to the Wilson place, and some ef- 
fort was made to soften the crust of igno- 
rance which was forming around the lad's 
mind. Stormy and self-willed, with a pe- 
culiar facility in the rapid selection and 
instantaneous use of the most picturesque 



BEN AND JUDAS 37 

and outlandish expletives, Ben drove these 
adventurous disciples of learning one by- 
one from the place, and at length grew to 
manhood and to be master of the Wilson 
plantation (when his father died) without 
having changed in the least the manner of 
his i^life. He did not marry, nor did he 
think of marriage, but grew stout and 
round-shouldered, stormed and raved when 
he felt like it, threatened all the negroes, 
whipped not one of them, and so went 
along into middle life, and beyond, with 
Judas treading as exactly as possible in his 
footprints. 

They grew prematurely old, these two 
men : the master's white hair was matched 
by the slave's snowy wool ; they both 
walked with a shufHing gait, and their 
faces gradually took on a network of 
wrinkles ; neither wore any beard. To 
this day it remains doubtful which was 
indebted most to the other in the matter 
of borrowed characteristics. The negro 



38 BEN AND JUDAS 

hoarded up the white man's words, espe- 
cially the polysyllabic ones, and in turn the 
white man adopted in an elusive, modified 
way the negro's pronunciation and ges- 
tures. If the African apostatized and fell 
away from the grace of a savage taste to 
like soda biscuits and very sweet coffee, 
the American of Scotch descent dropped 
so low in barbarity that he became a con- 
firmed 'possum-eater. Ben Wilson could 
read after a fashion, and had a taste for 
romance of the swashbuckler, kidnap-a- 
heroine sort. Judas was a good listener, 
as his master mouthed these wonderful 
stories aloud, and his hereditary Congo 
imagination, crude but powerful, was fed 
and strengthened by the pabulum thus 
absorbed. 

It was a picture worth seeing, worth 
sketching in pure colors and setting in an 
imperishable frame, that group, the master, 
the slave, and the dog Chawm. Chawm is 
a name boiled down from " chew them ; " 



BEN AND JUDAS 39 

as a Latin commentator would put it : 
chew them, vel chaw them, vel chaw 'em, 
vel chawm. He was a copperas-yellow cur 
of middle size and indefinite age, who loved 
to lie at the feet of his two masters and 
snap at the flies. This trio, when they 
came together for a literary purpose, usu- 
ally occupied that part of the old vine-cov- 
ered veranda which caught the black after- 
noon shade of the Wilson mansion. In 
parenthesis let me say that I use this word 
mansion out of courtesy, for the house was 
small and dilapidated ; the custom of the 
country made it a mansion, just as Ben 
Wilson was made Colonel Ben. 

There they were, the white, the black, 
and the dog, enjoying a certain -story of 
mediaeval days, about a nameless, terrible 
knight-errant who had stolen and borne 
away the beautiful Rosamond ; and about 
the slender, graceful youth who buckled 
his heavy armor on to ride off in melo- 
dramatic pursuit. Judas listened with 



40 BEN AND JUDAS 

eyes half closed and mouth agape ; Chawm 
was panting, possibly with excitement, his 
red tongue lolling and weltering, and his 
kindly brown eyes upturned to watch the 
motions of Ben's leisurely lips. There was 
a wayward breeze, a desultory satin rustle, 
in the vine-leaves. The sky was cloudless, 
the red country road hot and dusty, the 
mansion all silent within. Some negro 
ploughmen were singing plaintively far off 
in a cornfield. The eyes of Judas grew 
blissfully heavy, closed themselves, his 
under jaw fell lower, he snored in a deep, 
mellow, well-satisfied key. Ben ceased 
reading and looked at the sleepers, for 
Chawm, too, had fallen into a light doze. 

" Dad blast yer lazy hides ! Wake erp 
yer, er I '11 thrash ye till ye don't know yer- 
selves ! Wake up, I say ! " Ben's voice 
started echoes in every direction. Chawm 
sprung to his feet, Judas caught his breath 
with an inward snort and started up, glar- 
ing inquiringly at his raging master. 



BEN AND JUDAS 4I 

" Yer jes' go to that watermillion patch 
and git to yer hoein' of them vines mighty 
fast, er I '11 whale enough hide off' m yer 
to half-sole my boots, yer lazy, good-fer- 
nothin', low-down, sleepy-headed, snorin', 
flop-yeared" — He hesitated, rummaged 
in his memory for yet another adjective. 
Meantime, Judas had scrambled up un- 
steadily, and was saying, "Yah sah, yah 
sah," as fast as ever he could, and bowing 
apologetically while his hands performed 
rapid deprecatory gestures. 

" Move off, I say ! " thundered Ben. 

Chawm, with his tail between his legs, 
followed Judas, who went in search of his 
hoe, and soon after the negro was heard 
singing a camp-meeting song over in the 
melon patch : — 

" Ya-a-as, my mother 's over yander, 
Ya-a-as, my mother 's over yander, 
Ya-a-as, my mother 's over yander, 
On de Oder sho'." 

To any casual observer who for a series 



42 BEN AND JUDAS 

of years had chanced now and again to see 
these twain, it must have appeared that 
Ben Wilson's chief aim in life was to 
storm at Judas, and that Judas, not daring 
to respond in kind directly to the voluble 
raging of his master, lived for the sole pur- 
pose of singing religious songs and heap- 
ing maledictions on Bolus, his mule. If 
Ben desired his horse saddled and brought 
to him, he issued the order somewhat as 
follows : — 

" Judas ! Hey there, ye ole hump- 
backed scamp ! How long air ye a-goin' 
to be a-fetchin' me that boss ? Hurry up ! 
Step lively, er I '11 tie ye up an' jest whale 
the whole skin off'm ye ! Trot lively, I 
say!" 

Really, what did Judas care if Ben spoke 
thus to him? The master never had struck 
the slave in anger since the days when 
they enjoyed the luxury of their childish 
fisticuffs. These threats were the merest 
mouthing, and Judas knew it very well. 



BEN AND JUDAS 43 

"Yah, dar! Yo' Bolus! yo' ole rib- 
nosed, so'-eyed, knock-kneed, pigeon-toed 
t'ief ! I jes' wa' yo' out wid er fence-rail, 
ef yo' don' step pow'ful libely now; sho's 
yo' bo'n I jest will ! " 

This was the echo sent back from the 
rickety stables by Judas to the ears of his 
master, who sat smoking his short pipe on 
the sunken veranda under his vine and 
close to his gnarled fig-tree. The voice was 
meant to sound very savage ; but in spite 
of Judas it would be melodious and unim- 
pressive, a mere echo and nothing more, — 
vox, et prceterea nihil. 

Ben always chuckled reflectively when 
he heard Judas roaring like that. He 
could not have said just why he chuckled ; 
perhaps it was mere force of habit. 

" Dad blast that fool nigger ! " he would 
mutter below his breath. " Puts me in 
mind of a hongry mule a-brayin' fer fodder. 
I '11 skin 'im alive fer it yet." 

" Confoun' Mars' Ben ! Better keep he 



44 BEN AND JUDAS 

ole mouf shet," Judas would growl ; but 
neither ever heard the side remarks of the 
other. Indeed, in a certain restricted and 
abnormal way they were very tender of 
each other's feelings. The older they grew 
the nearer came these two men together. 
It was as if, setting out from widely sepa- 
rated birthrights, they had journeyed to- 
wards the same end, and thus, their paths 
converging, they were at last to lie down 
in graves dug side by side. 

But no matter if their cradle was a com- 
mon one, and notwithstanding that their 
footsteps kept such even time, Ben was 
master, Judas slave. They were differen- 
tiated at this one point, and at another, 
the point of color, irrevocably, hopelessly. 
As other differences were sloughed; as 
atom by atom their lines blended together; 
as strange attachments, like the feelers 
of vines, grew between them ; and as the 
license of familiarity took possession of 
them more and more, the attitude of the 



BEN AND JUDAS 45 

master partook of tyranny in a greater de- 
gree. I use the word " attitude," because 
it expresses precisely my meaning. Ben 
Wilson's tyranny was an attitude, nothing 
more. Judas never had seen the moment 
when he was afraid of his master ; still, 
there was a line over which he dared not 
step — the line of downright disobedience. 
In some obscure way the negro felt the 
weakness of the white man's character, 
from which a stream of flashing, rumbling 
threats had poured for a lifetime ; he knew 
that Ben Wilson was a harmless blusterer, 
who was scarcely aware of his own windy 
utterances, and yet he hesitated to admit 
that he knew it — nay, he forced himself 
to be proud of his master's prodigious tem- 
peramental expansions. He felt his own 
importance in the world barely below that 
of the man who owned him, and deep in 
his old heart stirred the delicious dream of 
freedom. What a dream ! Amorphous as 
a cloud, and rosy as ever morning vapor 



46 BEN AND JUDAS 

was, it informed his soul with vague, haunt- 
ing perfumes and nameless strains of song. 
Strange that so crude a being could absorb 
such an element into the innermost tis- 
sues of his life! Judas had a conscience, 
rudimentary indeed, but insistent, which 
gnawed him frightfully at times ; not for 
stealing, — he was callous to that, — but 
for rebellion, which he could not cast out 
of him entirely. Occasionally he solilo- 
quized : — 

" Ef I could jest be de mars' erwhile 
an' Mars' Ben be de nigger, bress de good 
Lor', but would n't I jest mor' 'n mek 'im 
bounce erroun' one time ! Sorty fink I 'd 
wake 'im up afore day, an' would n't I cuss 
'im an' 'buse 'im an' rah an' cha'ge at 'im 
tell he know 'zactly how it was hese'f! 
Yo' may say so, honey, dat yo' may ! " 

Following treasonable thoughts like 
these came bitings by the hot teeth of the 
poor slave's conscience, all the deeper and 
cruder by contrast with the love forever 



BEN AND JUDAS 4/ 

upgushing to be lavished on his truly in- 
dulgent, but strongly exasperating master. 

" Lor', do forgib po' ole Judas," he 
would pray, " kase he been er jokin' ter he- 
se'f 'bout er pow'ful ticklish ci'cumstance, 
sho' 's yo' bo'n. Lor' ; an' he no business 
trompin' roun' er ole well in de night. Git 
he neck broke, sho' ! " 

Notwithstanding conscience and prayer, 
however, the thought grew clearer and 
waxed more vigorous in the heart of Ju- 
das as the years slipped by and Ben gradu- 
ally increased his scolding. The more he 
fought it the closer clung to him the vision 
of that revolution which would turn him 
on top and Ben below, if but for a few mo- 
ments of delirious triumph. 

"Lor', but wouldn't Mars' Ben hate 'r 
hab dis ole nigger er cha'gin' an' er rantin' 
an' er yellin' at 'im, an' jest er cussin' 'im 
like de berry debil fo' eberyt'ing 'at 's 
mean, an' de sweat jest er rollin' off 'm, an' 
'im jest eberlastin'ly an' outlandishly er 



48 BEN AND JUDAS 

gibbin' 'im de limmer jaw fo' he laziness 
an' he dog-gone general no 'countness ! 
Ef dat would n't be satisfactionel ter dis 
yer darkey, den I dunno nuffin' 't all 'bout 
it. Dat 's his way er doin' me, an' it seem 
lak my time orter be comin' erlong poorty 
soon ter do 'im dat er way er leetle, debil 
take de nigger ef it don't ! " 

In good truth, however, Judas had no 
right to complain of hard work; he did 
not earn his salt. A large part of the time 
he and his master occupied with angling 
in the rivulet hard by, wherein catfish were 
the chief game. Side by side on the sandy 
bank of the stream the twain looked like 
two frogs ready to leap into the water, so 
expectant and eager were their wrinkled 
faces and protruding eyes ; so com.ically 
set akimbo their arms and legs. With 
little art they cast and recast their clumsy 
bait of bacon-rind, exchanging few words, 
but enjoying, doubtless, a sense of subtile 
companionship peculiarly satisfying. 







\ \^ 



-:%^ 



BEN AND JUDAS 49 

"Airy a bite, Judas?" 

" No, sah." 

" Too lazy to keep yer hook baited ? " 

" No, sah." 

A while of silence, the river swashing 
dreamily, the sunshine shimmering far 
along the slowly lapsing current; then Ju- 
das begins humming a revival tune. 

" Shet yer mouth ; stop that infernal 
howling, yer blasted old eejit, er I '11 take 
this yer fish-pole an' I '11 nat'rally lam the 
life out of ye ! " storms the master. " Ye '11 
scare all the fish till they '11 go clean to the 
Gulf of Mexico. Hain't ye got a triffin' of 
sense left ? " 

The slave sulks in silence. Ten minutes 
later Ben takes out a plug of bright, greasy- 
looking navy tobacco, and after biting off 
a liberal chew says in a very soft voice : — 

" Here, Jude, try some of my tobacker, 
an' maybe yer luck '11 change." 

Judas fills his cheek with the comfort- 
ing weed and gazes with expectant con- 



50 BEN AND JUDAS 

tentment into the stream, but the luck con- 
tinues much the same. The wind may 
blow a trifle sweeter, fluting an old Pan- 
pipe tune in a half-whisper through the 
fringe of shining reeds, and the thrushes 
may trill suddenly a strange, soft phrase 
from the dark foliage of the grove hard by; 
still, in blissful ignorance of the voices of 
nature and all unaware of their own pic- 
turesqueness, without a nibble to encour- 
age them, the two white-haired men watch 
away the golden afternoon. At last, just 
as Judas has given up and is winding his 
line around his pole, Ben yanks out a 
slimy, wriggling, prickly catfish, and his 
round face flings forth through its screen 
of wrinkles a spray of sudden excitement. 
" Grab 'im, Judas ! Grab 'im, ye lubberly 
old lout ye ! What ye doin' a-grinnin' an' 
a-gazin' an' that fish a-floppin' right back 
— grab 'im ! If ye do let 'im get away, I '11 
break yer old neck an' pull out yer back- 
bone — grab 'im, I say ! " 



BEN AND JUDAS 5 1 

Judas scrambles after the fish, sprawling 
and grabbing, while it actively flops about 
in the sand. It spears him cruelly till the 
red blood is spattered over his great rusty 
black hands, but he captures it finally and 
puts a stick through its gills. 

On many and many an afternoon they 
trudged homeward together in the soften- 
ing light, Judas carrying both rods on his 
shoulder, the bait-cups in his hands, and 
the string of fish, if there were any, dangling 
somewhere about his squat person. The 
black man might have been the incarnate 
shadow of the white one, so much were 
they alike in everything but color. Even 
to a slight limp of the left leg, their move- 
ments were the same. Each had a pecu- 
liar fashion of setting his right elbow at a 
certain angle, and of elevating slightly the 
right shoulder. Precisely alike sat their 
well-worn straw hats far over on the back 
of their heads. 

It was in the spring of i860 that Ben 



52 BEN AND JUDAS 

took the measles and came near to death. 
Judas nursed his master with a faithfulness 
that knew not the shadow of abatement 
until the disease had spent its force and 
Ben began to convalesce. With the turn 
of the tide which bore him back from the 
shore of death the master recovered his 
tongue, and grew refractory and abusive in- 
versely as the negro was silent and obedi- 
ent. He exhausted upon poor Judas, over 
and over again, the vocabulary of vitupera- 
tive epithets at his command. When Ben 
was quite well Judas lay down with the 
disease. 

" A nigger with the measles ! Well, I '11 
be dern ! Ye 're gone, Jude, — gone fer 
sure. Measles nearly always kills a nigger, 
an' ye mought es well begin ter wall up 
yer eyes an' wiggle yer toes." 

Ben uttered these consoling words as he 
entered his old slave's cabin and stood be- 
side the low bed. " Not much use ter do 
anythin' fer ye's I know of — bound ter 



BEN AND JUDAS 53 

go this time. Don't ye feel a sort of dyin' 
sensation in yer blamed old bones al- 
ready ? " 

But Judas was nursed by his master as 
a child by its mother. Never was man 
|l; better cared for night and day. Ben's 

whole life for the time was centred in the 
one thought of saving the slave. In this 
he was absolutely unselfish and at last 
successful. 

As Judas grew better, after the crisis 
was passed, he did not fail to follow his 
master's example and make himself as 
troublesome as possible. Nothing was 
good enough for him ; none of his food 
was properly prepared or served, his bed 
was not right, he wanted water from a cer- 
tain distant spring, he grumbled at Ben 
without reason, and grew more abusive 
and personal daily. At last, one afternoon 
Ben came out of the cabin with a very 
peculiar look on his face. He stopped as 
he left the threshold, and with his hands in 



54 BEN AND JUDAS 

his trousers' pockets and his head thrown 
back he whistled a low, gentle note. 

" Well, I '11 everlastin'ly jest be dad 
burned ! " he exclaimed. Then he puffed 
out his wrinkled cheeks till they looked 
like two freckled bladders. " Who 'd 'a' 
thought it ! " He chuckled long and low, 
looking down at his boots and then up at 
the sky. " Cussed me ! Cussed me ! The 
blame old rooster a-cussin' me ! Don't 
seem possible, but he did all the same. 
Gamest nigger I ever seen ! " 

It must have been a revelation to the 
master when the old slave actually swore 
at him and cursed him vigorously. Ben 
went about chuckling retrospectively and 
muttering to himself: — 

" The old coon he cussed me !" 

Next day for dinner Judas had chicken 
pie and dumplings, his favorite pot, and 
Ben brought some old peach brandy from 
the cellar and poured it for him with his 
own hands. 



BEN AND JUDAS 55 

In due time the negro got well and the 
two resumed their old life, a little feebler, 
a trifle more stoop in their shoulders, their 
voices huskier, but yet quite as happy as 
before. 

The watermelon - patch has ever been 
the jewel on the breast of the Georgia plan- 
tation. " What is home without a water- 
melon?" runs the well-known phrase, and 
in sooth what cool, delicious suggestions 
run with it! Ben and Judas each had a 
patch, year in and year out. Not that Ben 
ever hoed in his; but he made Judas keep 
it free of weeds. Here was a source of 
trouble ; for invariably the negro's patch 
was better, the melons were the larger and 
finer. Scold and storm and threaten as 
he might, Ben could not change this, nor 
could he convince his slave that there was 
anything at all strange in the matter. 

" How I gwine fin' out 'bout what mek 
yo' watermillions so runty an' so scrunty ? " 
Judas exclaimed. " Hain't I jest hoed 'em 



56 BEN AND JUDAS 

an' ploughed 'em an' took care ob em an' 
try ter mek 'em do somefin' ? But dey jest 
kinder wommux an' squommux erlong an' 
don't grow wof er dern ! I jest sw'a' I 
can't holp it, Mars' Ben, e£ yo' got no luck 
erbout yo' nohow ! Watermillions grows 
ter luck, not ter de hoe." 

" Luck ! Luck ! " bawled Ben, shaking 
his fist at the negro. " Luck ! yer old 
lump er lamp-black — yer old, lazy, sneakin' 
scamp ! I '11 show ye about luck ! Ef I 
don't have a good patch of watermillions 
next year I '11 skin ye alive, see ef I don't, 
ye old villain ye !" 

It was one of Ben's greatest luxuries to 
sit on the top rail of the worm-fence which 
inclosed the melon-patch, his own partic- 
ular patch, and superintend the hoeing 
thereof. To Judas this was a bitter ordeal, 
and its particular tang grew more offensive 
year by year, as the half-smothered longing 
to be master, if but for a moment, gripped 
his imagination closer and closer. 



BEN AND JUDAS 57 

" Ef I jest could set up dah on dat fence 
an' cuss 'im while he hoed, an' ef I jest 
could one time see 'im er hus'lin' erroun' 
w'en I tole 'im, dis nigger 'd be ready ter die 
right den. Lor', I 'd give it to 'im good ! " 

Any observer a trifle sharper than Ben 
would have read Judas's thoughts as he 
ruminated thus ; but Ben was not a student 
of human nature, — or, for that matter, any 
other nature, — and he scolded away merely 
to give vent to the pressure of habit. 

One morning, when the melon vines 
were young, — it must have been late in 
April, — Judas leaned on his hoe-handle, 
and looking up at Ben, who sat on the 
fence top, as usual, smoking his short pipe, 
he remarked : — 

*' Don' ye yer dat mockin'-bird er tee- 
diddlin' an' er too-doodlin', Mars' Ben ? " 

" I '11 tee-diddle an' too-doodle ye, ef ye 
don't keep on a-hoein', " raged Ben. " This 
year I 'm bound ter have some big melons, 
ef I have ter wear ye out ter do it ! " 



58 BEN AND JUDAS 

Judas sprung to work, and for about a 
minute hoed desperately ; then looking up 
again he said, " De feesh alius bites bestest 
w'en de mockin'-birds tee-diddles an' too- 
doodles dat way." 

Such a flood of abusive eloquence as 
Ben now let go upon the balmy morning 
air would have surprised and overwhelmed 
a less adequately fortified soul than that of 
Judas. The negro, however, was well pre- 
pared for the onslaught, and received it 
with most industrious though indifferent 
silence. When the master had exhausted 
both his breath and his vocabulary, the 
negro turned up his rheumy eyes and sug- 
gested that "feesh ain't gwine ter bite eber' 
day like day '11 bite ter-day." This remark 
was made in a tone of voice expressive of 
absent-mindedness, and almost instantly 
the speaker added dreamily, leaning on his 
hoe again : — 

" Time do crawl off wid a feller's life 
pow'ful fast, Mars' Ben. Seem lak yistyd'y, 



BEN AND JUDAS 59 

or day 'foer yistyd'y, 'at we 's leetle beety 
boys. Don' yo' 'member w'en ole Bolus 
— dat fust Bolus, I mean — done went an' 
kick de lof ' outer de new stable ? We 's er 
gittin' pooty ole, Mars' Ben, pooty ole, ain't 
we?" 

" Yea, an' we '11 die an' be buried an' 
resurrected, ye old vagabond ye, before ye 
get one hill of this here patch hoed!" 
roared Ben. Judas did not move, but, wag- 
ging his head in a dreamy way, said : — 

" I 'members one time " — here he chuc- 
kled softly — "I 'members one time w'en 
we had er fight an' I whirped yo' ; made 
yo' yelp out an' say ''Nough, 'nough! 
Take 'im off! ' an' Moses, how I wus er 
linkin' it ter yo' wid bof fists ter onct! Dose 
yo' rickermember dat. Mars' Ben ? " 

Ben remembered. It was when they 
were little children, before Judas had found 
out his hereditary limitation, and before 
Ben had dreamed of asserting the supe- 
riority inherent in his blood. Somehow 



60 BEN AND JUDAS 

the retrospect filled the master's vision in- 
stantly with a sort of Indian-summer haze 
of tenderness. He forgot to scold. For 
some time there was silence, save that the 
mocking-bird poured forth a song as rich 
and plaintive as any ever heard by Sappho 
under the rose-bannered garden walls of 
Mitylene; then Judas, with sudden energy, 
exclaimed : — 

" Mars' Ben, yo' nebber did whirp me, 
didyo'.?" 

Ben, having lapsed into retrospective 
distance, did not heed the negro's interro- 
gation, but sat there on the fence with his 
pipe-stem clamped between his teeth. He 
was smiling in a mild, childish way. 

" No," added Judas, answering his own 
question — " no, yo' nebber whirped me in 
yo' life; but I whirped yo' onct like de 
berry debil, did n't I, Mars' Ben } " 

Ben's hat was far back on his head, and 
his thin, white hair shone like silver floss 
on his wrinkled forehead, — the expression 



BEN AND JUDAS 6l 

of his face that of silly delight in a barren 
and commonplace reminiscence. 

" Mars' Ben, I wants ter ax one leetle 
fabor ob yo'." 

The master clung to his distance and his 
dream. 

" Hey dar ! Mars' Ben ! " 

" Well, what yer want, yer old scare- 
crow ? " inquired Ben, pulling himself to- 
gether and yawning so that he dropped his 
pipe, which Judas quickly restored to him. 

" Well, Mars' Ben, 't ain't much w'at I 
wants, but I 's been er wantin' it seem lak 
er thousan' years." 

Ben began to look dreamy again. 

" I wants ter swap places wid yo'. Mars' 
Ben, dat 's w'at I wants," continued Judas, 
speaking rapidly, as if forcing out the 
words against heavy pressure of restraint. 
" I wants ter set up dah on dat fence, an' 
yo' git down yer an' I cuss yo', an' yo' jest 
hoe like de debil — dat 's w'at I wants." 

It was a slow process by which Judas at 



62 BEN AND JUDAS 

last forced upon his master's comprehen- 
sion the preposterous proposition for a 
temporary exchange of situations. Ben 
could not understand it fully until it had 
been insinuated into his mind particle by 
particle, so to speak; for the direct method 
failed wholly, and the wily old African 
resorted to subtile suggestion and elusive 
supposititious illustration of his desire. 

" We 's been er libin' tergedder lo ! des 
many ye'rs, Mars' Ben, an' did I eber 'fuse 
ter do anyfing 'at yo' axed me ? No, sah, 
I neber did. Sort er seem lak yo' mought 
do jest dis one leetle 'commodation fo' 
me." 

Ben began to grin in a sheepish, half- 
fascinated way as the proposition gradually 
took hold of his imagination. How would 
it feel to be a "nigger " and have a master 
over him ? What sort of sensation would 
it afford to be compelled to do implicitly 
the will of another, and that other a queru- 
lous and conscienceless old sinner like 



BEN AND JUDAS 6$ 

Judas ? The end of it was that he slid 
down from his perch and took the hoe, 
while Judas got up and sat on the fence. 

"Han' me dat pipe," was the first per- 
emptory order. 

Ben winced, but gave up the coveted 
nicotian censer. 

" Now, den, yo' flop-yeared, bandy- 
shanked, hook nosed, freckle-faced, wall- 
eyed, double-chinned, bald-headed, hump- 
shoul'ered " — 

" Come, now, Judas," Ben interrupted, 
" I won't Stan' no sech langwidges " — 

" Hoi' on dah. Mars' Ben," cried Judas 
in an injured tone. "Yo' p'omised me 
yo' 'd do it, an' I knows yo' 's not gwine 
back on yo' wo'd ; no Wilson eber do dat." 

Ben was abashed. It was true no Wil- 
son ever broke a promise. The Wilsons 
were men of honor. 

" Well, fire away," he said, falling to 
work again. " Fire away ! " 

" Hussle up, dah ! Hussle up, yo' lazy 



64 BEN AND JUDAS 

ole vagabon' yo', er I '11 git down f'om 
heah, an' I '11 w'ar out ebery hic'ry sprout 
in de county on yo' ole rusty back ! Git 
erlong ! — hurry up ! — faster ! Don' yo' 
heah ? Ef I do come down dah I '11 jes' 
nat 'rally comb yo' head tell ebery ha'r on 
it '11 sw'ar de day ob judgment done come ! 
I '11 wa'm yo' jacket tell de dus' er comin' 
out'n it '11 look lak a sto'm-cloud ! Wiggle 
faster, er I '11 yank out yo' backbone an' 
mek er trace-chain out'n it ! Don' yo' heah 
me, Ben?" 

Ben heard and obeyed. Never did hoe 
go faster, never was soil so stirred and pul- 
verized. The sweat sprung from every 
pore of the man's skin, it trickled over his 
face and streamed from his chin, it satu- 
rated his clothes. 

Judas was intoxicated with delight ; 
almost delirious with the sensation of 
freedom and masterhood. His eloquence 
increased as the situation affected his 
imagination, and his words tumbled forth 



BEN AND JUDAS 65 

in torrents. Not less was Ben absorbed 
and carried away. He was a slave, Judas 
was his master, the puppet must wriggle 
when the owner pulled the strings. He 
worked furiously. Judas forgot to smoke 
the pipe, but held it in his hand and made 
all sorts of gestures with it. 

"Hit dem clods! Mash 'em fine!" he 
screamed. " Don' look up, yo' ole poky 
tarrypin yo'! Ef yo' does I '11 wommux de 
hide off' m yo' blamed ole back faster 'n 
forty-seben shoemakers kin peg it on ag'in ! 
Hussle, I tole yo', er I '11 jest wring yo' 
neck an' tie yo' years in er hard knot ! Yo' 
heah me now, Ben ? " 

This was bad enough, but not the worst, 
for Judas used many words and phrases 
not permissible in print. He spared no 
joint of his master's armor, he left no vul- 
nerable point unassailed. The accumulated 
riches of a lifetime spent in collecting a pic- 
turesque vocabulary, and the stored force 
of nearly sixty years given to private prac- 



66 BEN AND JUDAS 

tice in using it, now served him a full turn. 
In the thickest shower of the negro's 
mingled threats, commands, and maledic- 
tions, however, Ben quit work, and, leaning 
on his hoe, panted rapidly. He gazed up 
at Judas pathetically and said: — 

" How that mockin'-bird does tee-diddle 
an' too-doodle ! " 

Judas actually stopped short in the mid 
career of his eloquence, and Ben added : — 

" Never see sich signs for feesh a-bitin'; 
did you, Judas ? " 

The charm was broken, the farce was 
ended. A little later the two old men 
might have been seen with their bait-cups 
and fishing-poles in their hands toddling 
along down the slope to the rivulet, the 
white leading, the black following. They 
were both rather abstracted, it appeared, 
for each cast in his hook without any 
bacon rind on it, and sat on the stream's 
bank all the rest of the forenoon in blissful 
expectancy of an impossible nibble. 



BEN AND JUDAS 6^ 

One good came of the little episode at 
the melon-patch. The vine around whose 
roots Ben had plied the hoe with such 
vigor thrived amazingly, and in due time 
bore a watermelon of huge size, a grand 
spheroid as green as emerald and as richly 
soft in surface color as the most costly old 
velvet. 

" Got de twin ob it down dah in my 
patch," said Judas ; " jestes much like it es 
one bean 's like anoder bean. Yo' orter 
come down an' see it. Mars Ben." 

Ben went, and sure enough, there was a 
melon just the duplicate of his own. Of 
course, however, he claimed that he saw 
some indices of inferiority in Judas's fruit, 
but he could n't just point them out — pos- 
sibly the rind was not as healthy-looking, 
he thought, and then the stem appeared to 
be shriveling. Judas, for his part, was 
quite sure that his master's melon would 
not '* sweeten up " as his would, and that it 
would be found lacking in the "jawlee- 



68 BEN AND JUDAS 

ciousness " and that " fo'-de-Lor'-sake-hand- 
me-some-moreness " so characteristic of 
those of his own raising. 

Ben's pride in his melon matured and 
ripened at the same time with the maturing 
and ripening of that wonderful globule of 
racy pulp and juice whose core he longed 
to see. After so many failures, here at last 
was his triumph. There was a certain dan- 
ger connected with plucking this melon. 
It was of a variety locally called "ice-rind" 
on account of the thickness of the outer 
part or shell which made it very difificult to 
know when it was ripe, and so Ben dreaded 
to act. Every evening in the latest dusk 
of twilight he would go out and lean over 
the patch fence to have a darkling view of 
his treasure, which thus seen was mightily 
magnified. 

When the moment of sacrifice had come, 
Ben actually shrunk from the task of pluck- 
ing that melon. He leaned on the fence 
until it was quite dark and until the moon 



BEN AND JUDAS 69 

had begun to show in the east before he 
bethought him that that night was Judas 's 
birth-night, and then a bright idea came to 
him. He would take the melon to the old 
slave's cabin and they would have a feast. 
But when he had climbed over the fence 
and had stooped above the huge dusky 
sphere, his heart failed him, and at the 
same time another thought struck him with 
great force. He straightened himself up, 
placed his hands on his hips, and chuckled. 
Just the thing ! The best joke on Judas ! 
He would go to the negro's patch, steal his 
big melon, and share it with him on the 
following day. 

His own melon he would keep a few 
days longer to be sure that it had ripened. 
A very simple proceeding, without a 
thought of dishonor in it. 

It was as beautiful and balmy a midsum- 
mer night as ever fell upon the world. 
Ben felt its soft influence in his old blood 
as he toddled surreptitiously along the 



70 BEN AND JUDAS 

path leading through a little wood to Ju- 
das's cabin and patch. He was picturing 
in his mind how foolish Judas would look 
and how beaten he would feel when he 
found out that he had been feasting on his 
own big melon. One might have seen by 
the increasing light of the moon that Ben's 
trelliswork of facial wrinkles could scarcely 
hold in the laughing glee that was in him, 
and his eyes twinkled while his mouth drew 
itself on to a set, suppressed smile. Chawm 
trotted along silently at Ben's heels, his 
tail drooping and his ears hanging limp. 
In the distance, amid the hills, an owl was 
hooting dolefully, but the little wood was 
as silent as the grave. Suddenly Ben heard 
a footfall coming up the path, and he 
slipped into the bushes just in time to let 
Judas go shuffling by all unaware. 

" The blamed old rooster," he said to 
himself in a tender, affectionate whisper. 
" The blamed old rooster ! I wonder what 
he 's a-thinkin' about jest now ? " 



BEN AND JUDAS 71 

Chawm slipped out and fell noiselessly 
behind Judas, following him on towards the 
mansion. Ben chuckled with deep satis- 
faction as he climbed over into Judas's 
patch and laid hands on the negro's large 
melon. What a typical thief he appeared 
as he hurried furtively along, stooping low 
with his ill-gotten load, his crooked shadow 
dancing vaguely beside him ! Over the 
fence he toiled with difficulty, the melon 
was so heavy and slippery ; then along the 
path. Once in the shadowy wood, he laid 
down his burden and wiped his dewy face 
with his sleeve. He did not realize how 
excited he was ; it was the first time in all 
his life that he had ever stolen anything 
even in fun. Every little sound startled 
him and made him pant. He felt as if 
running as fast as his legs could carry him 
would be the richest of all luxuries. 

When again he picked up the melon and 
resumed his way he found his heart flutter- 
ing and his limbs weak, but he hurried on. 



72 BEN AND JUDAS 

Suddenly he halted, with a black appari- 
tion barring the path before him. 

"Judas! you old coon!" 

" Mars' Ben ! " 

They leaned forward and glared at each 
other. 

" Mars' Ben ! Yo' been er stealin' my 
watermillion ! " 

"Judas! You thieven' old rooster ! You 
've stole" — 

Their voices blended, and such a mix- 
ture ! The wood resounded. They stood 
facing each other, as much alike as dupli- 
cates in everything save color, each clasp- 
ing in his arms the other's watermelon. It 
was a moment of intense surprise, of volu- 
ble swearing, of picturesque posturing; 
then followed a sudden collapse and down 
fell both great, ripe, luscious spheres with 
a dull, heavy bump, breaking open on the 
ground and filling the air with a spray of 
sweet juice and the faint luxuriant aroma 
so dear to Georgian nostrils. Chawm 



BEN AND JUDAS f3 

stepped forward and sniffed idly and in- 
differently at one of the pieces. A little 
screech-owl mewed plaintively in the bush 
hard by. Both men, having exhausted 
themselves simultaneously, began to sway 
and tremble, their legs slowly giving way 
under them. The spot of moonlight in 
which they stood lent a strange effect to 
their bent and faltering forms. Judas had 
been more or less a thief all his life, but 
this was the first time he had ever been 
caught in the act, therefore he was as 
deeply shocked as was Ben. Down they 
sank until they sat flat on the ground in 
the path and facing each other, the broken 
melons between them. Chawm took posi- 
tion a little to one side and looked on 
gravely, as if he felt the solemnity of the 
occasion. 

Judas was first to speak. 

" Well, I jest be 'sentially an' eberlast- 
in'ly" — 

" Shet up ! " stormed Ben. 



74 BEN AND JUDAS 

They looked sheepishly at each other, 
while Chawm licked his jaws with perfunc- 
tory nonchalance. After what seemed a 
very long silence, Ben said : — 

" Jude, ax a blessin' afore we eats." 

Judas hesitated. 

" Did ye hear what I was a-sayin' for yer 
to do ? " inquired Ben. " Ax a blessin', I 
say ! " The negro bowed his old snow- 
fleeced head and prayed : — 

"Lor', hab mercy on two ole villyans 
an' w'at dey done steal f'om one 'nudder. 
Spaycially, Lor', forgib Mars' Ben, kase he 
rich an' free an' he orter hab mo' honah 
'bout 'im 'an ter steal f'om po' nigger, I 
used to fink. Lor', dat Mars' Ben 's er mighty 
good man, but seem lack yer lately he git- 
tin' so on'ry 'at yo' '11 be erbleeged ter 
hannel 'im pooty sabage ef he keep on. 
Dey may be 'nough good lef in 'im ter pay 
fer de trouble ob foolin' 'long wid 'im, but 
hit 's pow'ful doubtful, an' dat 's er fac'. 
Lor', I don't advise yo' ter go much outer 



BEN AND JUDAS 75 

yo' way ter 'commodate sich er outdacious 
old sneak-t'ief an' sich er " — 

" Judas ! " roared Ben, " yer jest stop 
right now ! " 

" An' bress dese watermillions w'at we 's 
erbout ter receib, amen ! " concluded Judas. 
*' Try er piece er dis here solid core, Mars' 
Ben ; hit look mighty jawleecious." 

And so there in the space of moonlight 
they munched, with many watery mouth- 
ings, the sweet central hearts of the pil- 
fered fruit. All around them the birds 
stirred in their sleep, rustling the leaves 
and letting go a few dreamy chirps. Over- 
head a great rift uncovered the almost 
purple sky. 

They did not converse while they were 
eating, but when the repast was ended Ju- 
das apologized and explained in their joint 
behalf: — 

" Yo' see. Mars' Ben, I 's yo' nigger an' 
yo' 's my marster. W'at 's yo's is mine, an' 
w'at's mine's yo's; see? an' hit ain't no 



76 BEN AND JUDAS 

mo' harm 'an nothin' fo' us ter steal f'om 
one 'nudder. Lor', Mars' Ben, I been er 
knowin' all my life 'at I was er stealin' f'om 
yo' ; but I nebber dream 'at it was yo' 'at 
was er takin' all er my bestest watermillions 
an' t'ings. 'Spec' we 's 'bout eben now, 
Mars' Ben. Ef yo 's a leetle bit ahead ob 
me I 's not er keerin' ; hit 's all right." 

So they wiped their mouths and parted 
for the night. 

" Good-night, Mars' Ben." 

" Good-night, Judas." 

It would be cruel to follow them farther 
down the road of life, for rheumatism came, 
and then the war. Many an afternoon the 
trio, Ben, Judas, and Chawm, sat on the old 
veranda and listened to the far-off thunder 
of battle, not fairly realizing its meaning, 
but feeling that in some vague way it meant 
a great deal. After war, peace. After 
peace, reconstruction. After reconstruc- 
tion, politics. Somebody took the trouble 
to insist upon having Ben Wilson go to 



BEN AND JUDAS 77 

the polls and vote. Of course Judas went 
with him. What a curious looking twain 
they were, tottering along, almost side by 
side now, their limbs trembling and their 
eyes nearly blind ! 

" Got yer ticket, Jude ? " inquired Ben. 

" No, sah, dat 's all right. Yo' jest drap 
one in, hit '11 do fo' bofe ob us," answered 
Judas. And it was done. 

They died a year ago. Their graves 
are side by side, and so close together that 
a single slab might serve to cover them 
both. If I were rich it should be an im- 
perishable monument, inscribed simply: — 

BEN AND JUDAS, 

Aet. Seventy Years, One Month, and Fourteen 

Days. 



HODSON'S HIDE-OUT 

Where the great line of geologic up- 
heaval, running down from Virginia 
through North Carolina, Tennessee, and 
Georgia, finally breaks up into a hopeless 
confusion of variously trending ridges and 
spurs, there is a region of country some- 
what north of the centre of Alabama, called 
by the inhabitants thereof " The Sand 
Mounting."" It is a wild, out-of-the way, 
little-known country, whose citizens have 
kept alive in their mountain fastnesses 
nearly all that backwoods simplicity- and 
narrowness of ambition peculiar to their 
ancestors, who came mostly from the Caro- 
linas, in the early part of the present cen- 
tury, following the mountain lines in their 
migrations, as fish follow streams. They 
are honest and virtuous, as mountain folk 



HODSON'S HIDE-OUT 79 

usually are, rather frugal and simple than 
industrious and enterprising, knowing no- 
thing of books, and having very indefinite 
information touching the doings of the great 
world whose tides of action foam around 
their mountain-locked valleys like an ocean 
around some worthless island. They have 
heard of railroads, but many of them have 
never seen one. They do not take news- 
papers, they turn their backs upon mission- 
aries, and they nurse a high disdain for the 
clothes and ways of city folk. Most of 
them are farmers in a small way, raising a 
little corn and wheat, a " patch " of cotton 
now and then, a few vegetables, and a 
great deal of delicious fruit. 

In the days of secession the men of 
Sand Mountain were not zealous in the 
Southern cause, nor were they, on the other 
hand, willing to do battle for the Union. 
So it happened that when the Confederate 
authorities began a system of conscription, 
Sand Mountain was not a healthful place 



8o HODSON'S HIDE-OUT 

for enrolling officers, many of whom never 
returned therefrom to report the number 
of eligible men found in remote valleys 
and *' Pockets." 

One citizen of the mountain became no- 
torious, if not strictly famous, during the 
war. His name was Riley Hodson, better 
known as Gineral Hodson, though he had 
never been a soldier. He may have been 
rather abnormally developed to serve as a 
representative Sand Mountain figure in 
this or any other sketch of that region. 
The reader may gather from the following 
outlines of Hodson's character, drawn by 
certain of his neighbors, a pretty fair idea 
of what the picture would be when filled 
out and properly shaded and lighted. 

" Gineral Hodson air not jest ezactly 
what ye 'd call a contrary man, but he 's a 
mighty p'inted an' a orful sot in 'is way sort 
o' a feller," said Sandy Biddle, who stood 
six feet two in his home-made shoes, and 
weighed scarcely one hundred and twenty 



HODSON'S HIDE-OUT 8l 

pounds, " an' ef anybody air enjoyin' any 
oncommon desire for a fight, he may call on 
the gineral with a reas'nable expectation of 
a-ketchin' double-barrel thunder an' hair- 
trigger lightnin'." 

" He never hev be'n whirpt," observed 
old Ben Iley, himself the hero of some 
memorable rough-and-tumble fights, " an' 
he hev managed ter hev his own way, in 
spite o' 'ell an' high water, all over the 
mounting for mor' 'n forty year ter my sar- 
ting knowledge." 

" When it come ter doctrin', es the scrip- 
ter p'intedly do show it, he kin preach all 
round any o' yer meth'dist bible-bangers 
'at ever I see, don't keer ef ye do call 'im 
a Hardshell an' a Forty-gallon, an' a' Iron- 
Jacket Baptus," was Wes Beasley's trib- 
ute ; " an' I kin f urder say," he added, cut- 
ting a quid from a twist of Sand Mountain 
tobacco and lodging it in his jaw, " 'at Gin- 
eral Hodson air hones', an' when he air a 
feller's frien' he air a good un, an' when he 



82 HODSON'S HIDE-OUT 

don't like ye, then hit air about time fer ye 
ter git up an brin'le out'n the mounting." 
Turning from these verbal sketches to 
look at Riley Hodson himself, we shall 
find him leaning on the rickety little gate 
in front of his rambling log house. In 
height he is six feet three, broad-shouldered, 
strong -limbed, rugged, grizzled, harsh- 
faced, unkempt. He "looks like the em- 
bodiment of obstinacy. Nor is he out of 
place as a figure in the landscape around 
him. Nature was in no soft mood when 
she gave birth to Sand Mountain, and, in 
this particular spot, such labor as Riley 
Hodson had bestowed on its betterment 
had rendered the offspring more unsightly. 
Some yellowish clay fields, washed into 
ruts by the mountain rains, lay at all sorts 
of angles with the horizon ; the fences 
were grown over with sassafras bushes and 
sour-grape vines, and there was as small 
evidence of any fertility of soil as there 
was of careful or even intelligent hus- 



HODSON'S HIDE-OUT 83 

bandry. It was in the spring of 1875, ten 
years after the close of the war, that Riley 
Hodson leaned on that gate and gazed up 
the narrow mountain trail at a man com- 
ing down. 

" Hit air a peddler," he muttered to him- 
self, taking the short-stemmed pipe from 
his mouth with a grimace of the most 
dogged dislike, — "hit air a peddler, an' ef 
them weeming ever git ther eyes sot onto 
'im hit air good-by ter what money I hev 
on han', to a dead sartingty." 

He opened the gate and passed through, 
going slowly along the trail to meet the 
coming stranger. Once or twice he 
glanced furtively back over his shoulder to 
see if his wife or daughter might chance to 
be looking after him from the door of the 
old house. He walked, in the genuine 
mountain fashion, with long, loose strides, 
his arms swinging awkwardly at his sides, 
and his head thrust forward, with his chin 
elevated and his shoulders drawn up. He 



84 HODSON'S HIDE-OUT 

soon came face to face with a young man 
of rather small stature and pleasing fea- 
tures, who carried a little pack on the end 
of a short fowling-piece swung across his 
left shoulder. 

Hodson had made up his mind to drive 
this young adventurer back, thinking him 
an itinerant peddler ; but a strange look 
came into the old man's face, and he 
stopped short with a half-frightened start 
and a dumb gesture of awe and surprise. 

The stranger, David D'Antinac by name, 
and an ornithologist by profession, was a 
little startled by this sudden apparition ; 
for Riley Hodson at best was not prepos- 
sessing in appearance, and he glared so 
strangely, and his face had such an ashy 
pallor in it, that the strongest heart might 
have shrunk and trembled at confronting 
him in a lonely mountain trail. 

" Well, ye blamed little rooster ! " ex- 
claimed Hodson in a breathless way, after 
staring for a full minute. 



HODSON'S HIDE-OUT 85 

D'Antinac recoiled perceptibly, with 
some show of excitement in his face. He 
was well aware that he was in a region not 
held well in hand by the law, and he had 
been told many wild tales of this part of 
Sand Mountain. 

" Ye blamed little rooster ! " repeated 
the old man, taking two or three short 
backward steps, as if half alarmed and half 
meditating a sudden leap upon D'Antinac, 
who now summoned voice enough to say : 

" How do you do, sir ? " 

Such a smile as one might cast upon the 
dead — a white, wondering, fearful smile 
— spread over Hodson's face. It seemed 
to D'Antinac that this smile even leaped 
from the face and ran like a ghastly flash 
across the landscape. He will remember 
it as long as he lives. 

"W'y, Dave, er thet you?" Hodson 
asked, in a harsh, tremulous tone, taking 
still another backward step. 

" My name is certainly David, but I 



86 HODSON'S HIDE-OUT 

guess you don't know me," said D'Anti- 
nac, with an effort at an easy manner. 

" Don't know ye, ye pore little rooster ! 
Don't know ye ! W'y, Dave, are ye come 
ag'in ? " The old man wavered and fal- 
tered, as if doubtful whether to advance or 
retreat. " Don't know ye ? " he repeated. 
"W'y, Dave, don t you know meF Hev 
ye furgot the ole man ? " 

" I beg your pardon, sir, but I believe I 
never saw you before in my life," said 
D'Antinac, lowering his little pack to the 
ground and leaning on his gun. " You 
are certainly laboring under some mistake." 

" Never seed me afore ! " cried Hodson, 
his voice showing a rising belligerency. 
" Ye blamed little rooster, none o' yer fool- 
in', fer I won't stand it. I '11 jes nat'rally 
w'ar ye out ef ye come any o' that air." 

Hodson now advanced a step or two 
with threatening gestures. Quick as light- 
ning, D'Antinac flung up his gun and 
leveled it, his face growing very pale. 



HODSON'S HIDE-OUT 8/ 

" Another step," he cried excitedly, " and 
1 11 shoot two holes through you ! " 

Hodson stopped and said in a deprecat- 
ing tone : — 

" W'y, Dave, ye would n't shoot yer 
daddy, would ye, Dave ? " 

" If you run onto me I '11 shoot you,'' 
was the firm response. 

" W'y, ye blasted mean little rooster ! " 
thundered Hodson, and before D'Antinac 
in his excitement could pull trigger, the 
old man had him down and was sitting 
astride of him, as he lay at full length on 
his back. " Now I '11 jest nat'rally be 
dinged, Dave, ef I don't whirp ever' last 
striffin o' hide off n ye ef ye don't erhave 
yerself!" He had both of D'Antinac's 
arms clasped in one of his great hands, and 
was pressing them so hard against the 
young man's breast that he could scarcely 
breathe. " Ye nasty little rooster, a-comin' 
back an' a-tryin' ter shoot yer pore old 
daddy fer nothin'. I '11 jest wear ye out 



88 HODSON'S HIDE-OUT 

an' half-sole ye ag'in ef ye open yer 
mouth ! " 

D'Antinac lay like a mouse under the 
paw of a lion. It was quite impossible 
for him to move. The old man's weight 
was enormous. 

" I 'm er great notion ter pound the very 
daylights out'n ye afore I let ye up," Hod- 
son continued. " Hit meks me mad 'nuff 
fer ter bite ye in two like er tater an' jest 
nat'rally chaw up both pieces, on'y ter 
think 'at ye 'd deny yer own daddy what 's 
larruped ye many a time, an' 'en try ter 
shoot 'im ! I 'm teetotally ershamed of ye, 
Dave. An' what '11 yer mammy say ? " 

D'Antinac was possessed of a quick 
mind, and he had schooled it in the art 
of making the most of every exigency. He 
had been several years in the mountain 
regions of the South, and had discovered 
that the mountaineers liked nothing bet- 
ter than a certain sort of humor, liberally 
spiced with their peculiar slang. 



HODSON'S HIDE-OUT ^9 

" Speaking of biting a tater in two," he 
ejaculated rather breathlessly, " reminds 
me that I 'm as hungry as a sitting hen. 
Have you got anything like a good mellow 
iron wedge or a fried pine-knot in your 
pocket ? " 

Hodson's face softened a little, and he 
smiled again, in that half ghastly way, as 
he said : — 

"Ye dinged little rooster! W'y, Dave, 
der ye know the ole man now? Say, 
Dave, do ye ? " 

" Oh, yes, perfectly ; never knew any 
one better in my life," promptly responded 
D'Antinac. " Your face is quite familiar, 
I assure you. How 're the folks ? " 

Hodson chuckled deep down in his 
throat, at the same time somewhat relax- 
ing his hold on the young man's arms. 

" Sarah an' Mandy '11 jes nat'rally go 
'stracted over ye, Dave, an' I want ye ter 
'have yerself an' come wi' me down ter the 
house, like er white boy. This here fool- 



90 HODSON'S HIDE-OUT 

in' 's not gwine ter do ye no good. Ye 've 
got to toe the mark, Dave." 

" Oh, I'll behave," exclaimed D'Antinac. 
" I '11 do whatever you want me to. I was 
only joking just now. Let me up; you're 
mashing me as flat as a flying-squirrel." 

" Well, I don't whant ter hurt ye, but 
afore I ever let ye up, ye must promerse 
me one thing," said Hodson. 

" What is it.? Quick! for you are really 
making jelly of me," D'Antinac panted 
forth, like Encelados under Sicily. 

" Thet ye '11 not deny yer mammy ner 
Mandy ; an' ef ye do deny 'em, I '11 jest 
nat'rally be blamed ef I don't whale yer 
jacket tell ye won't know yer hide from a 
meal-sifter. Do ye promerse .? " 

" Yes," said D'Antinac, though in fact 
he did not understand the old mountain- 
eer's meaning. The young man's mother 
had died in his babyhood, and he felt safe 
in promising never to deny her. 

Hodson got up, leaving D'Antinac free 



HODSON'S HIDE-OUT QI 

to rise ; but the old fellow got possession 
of the gun and pack, and then said : — 

" Now come 'long home, Dave, an' les' 
see what yer mammy an' Mandy '11 say ter 
ye. Come 'long, I say, an' don't stan' ther, 
a-gawpin' like er runt pig in er peach or- 
chard. I do 'spise er fool. Come on, dad 
ding it, an' 'have yerself." 

It is probable that no man was ever 
more bewildered than D'Antinac was just 
then ; in fact, he could not command him- 
self sufficiently to do more than stand 
there, after he had risen, and stupidly 
stare at Hodson. The latter, however, did 
not parley, but seizing one of the young 
man's arms in a vise-like grip, he began 
jerking him along the trail toward the 
house. 

It was a subject fit for an artist's study, 
the old giant striding down the path, with 
the young man following at a trot. D'An- 
tinac could not resist. He felt the insig- 
nificance of his physique, and also of his 



92 HODSON'S HIDE-OUT 

will, when compared with those of this old 
man of the mountain. 

" I bet yer mammy '11 know ye, soon es 
she lays eyes onter ye, spite of yer new-fan- 
gled clo's an' yer fancy mustachers. An' es 
fur Mandy, don't s'pose she '11 'member ye, 
case she wus too little w'en ye — w'en ye 
war' — w'en they tuck ye off. She was no- 
thin' but er baby then, ye know. Well, not 
ezactly a baby, nuther, but er little gal like. 
Le's see, she air sevingteen now ; well, she 
wer 'bout five er six, er sich a matter, then. 
Mebbe she mought know ye too." 

D'Antinac, as he listened to this, began 
to understand that in some way he had 
been identified in the old man's mind as a 
long-lost son, and it seemed to him that 
his only safety lay in ready and pliant ac- 
ceptance, if not in active furtherance, of 
the illusion. He was roughly hustled into 
the Hodson dwelling, a squat old house, 
built of pine logs, with the cracks between 
boarded over with clapboards. 



HODSON'S HIDE-OUT 93 

" Sarah, der ye 'member this yer little 
rooster ? " Hodson exclaimed, with a ring 
of pride in his stubborn voice, as he twisted 
D'Antinac around so as to bring him face 
to face with a slim, sallow, wrinkled little 
old woman, who stood by an enormous 
fireplace, smoking an oily-looking clay 
pipe. " Don't he jest hev a sort er nat'ral 
look ter ye? Hev he be'n killed in the 
wa', Sarah, eh ? " 

The woman did not respond immedi- 
ately. She took the pipe from her mouth 
and gazed at D'Antinac. Her face slowly 
assumed a yearning look, and at length, 
with a sort of moaning cry of recognition, 
she fell upon him and clasped him close, 
kissing him and wetting him with her 
tears. Her breath, heavy with the malodor 
of nicotine, almost strangled him, but he 
dared not resist. 

During this ordeal he got broken 
glimpses of a bright girlish face, a heavy 
rimpled mass of lemon-colored hair, and a 



94 HODSON'S HIDE-OUT 

very pretty form clothed in a loose home- 
spun gown. 

" Mandy, hit air Dave come back, yer 
brother Dave ; do yer 'member 'im ? " he 
heard the old man say. " Do yer 'member 
the little rooster 'at they conscripted an' 
tuck erway ter the wa' ? Well, thet air 's 
him, thet air 's Dave ! Go kiss 'im, 
Mandy." 

The girl did not move, nor did she seem 
at all inclined to share the excitement of 
her parents. 

" Go kiss yer bud, Mandy, I say," Hod- 
son commanded. " He wus n't killed in no 
wa'. Kiss the little rooster, Mandy." 

" Won't," stubbornly responded Mandy. 

" Well, now, I '11 jest ber dinged, sis, ef 
this yere hain't jest too bad," the old man 
exclaimed in a whining, deprecatory tone 
of voice, quite different from the gruff, bul- 
lying sounds usually emitted by him. " I 
would n't er thort 'at ye 'd 'fuse ter be glad 
w'en yer little brother come." 



HODSON'S HIDE-OUT 95 

" 'Tain't none o' my brother, neither," 
she said, blushing vermilion, as she half 
shyly gazed at D'Antinac, with her finger 
in her mouth. 

Mrs. Hodson hung upon the young man 
for a space that seemed to him next to in- 
terminable, and when at last she unwound 
her bony arms from his neck and pushed 
him back, so as to get a good look at him, 
he felt such relief as comes with the first 
fresh breath after a season of suffocation. 

" Ye air be'n gittin' rich, hain't ye, Dave ? 
an' ye air fatter 'n ye wus, too," she re- 
marked. Then she went back to the 
hearth and relighted her pipe, meantime 
eyeing him curiously. 

D'Antinac never before had found him- 
self so utterly at a loss for something to 
do or say. The occasion was a singularly 
dry, queer, and depressing one. He felt 
the meanness of his attitude, and yet a side 
glance at Hodson's stubbornly cruel face 
and giant form was enough to enforce its 
continuance. 



96 HODSON'S HIDE-OUT 

" Yer mammy's jest as purty es ever, 
haint she, Dave ? " said the old man with 
a wheedling note in his rasping voice ; " she 
hain't changed none, hev she, Dave ? " 

" I don't know — I guess — well, perhaps 
she 's more flesh — that is, stouter than 
when — than when " — 

" Ye-e-s, that air hit, Dave," said Hod- 
son, " she air fatter." 

Nothing could have been more ridicu- 
lous than this assertion. Mrs. Hodson, 
like most old mountain women who live 
on salt pork and smoke tobacco, was as 
thin and dried up as a last year's beech- 
leaf. D'Antinac sheepishly glanced at 
Mandy. The girl put her hand over her 
really sweet-looking mouth and uttered a 
suppressed titter, at the same time deepen- 
ing her blushes and shrugging her plump, 
shapely shoulders. 

" Well, Dave, jest es I 'spected, Mandy 
hev f urgot ye," said Hodson ; " but ye know 
she wer' not no bigger 'n a nubbin o' dry 



HODSON'S HIDE-OUT 9/ 

weather co'n w'en ye wer' tuck away. But 
hit 's all right, Dave ; yer mammy an' me 
hev alius felt like ye 'd turn up some day, 
an' lo an' behole, ye hev." 

Once more D'Antinac bravely tried to 
deny this alleged kinship to the Hodson 
household, but the old man instantly flew 
into a passion and threatened all sorts of 
condign punishment, not the worst of 
which was " swiping him all over a' acre 
o' groun'." 

" But, my dear sir, I can't afford to have 
you for a moment think " — 

" Dry up, ye little sniv'lin' conscript, er 
I '11 mop this yere floo' wi' ye in a minute ! 
Hain't ye got no sense 't all ? Hev I got 
ter down ye ag'in ? " 

D'Antinac could not help himself. He 
made a full surrender, and accepted, for 
the time, his role of returned son and bro- 
ther, trusting that something would soon 
turn up to free him from the embarrass- 
ment. He was not long in discovering 



98 HODSON'S HIDE-OUT -* 

that Mrs. Hodson's faith in his identity 
was much weaker than the old man's, and 
as for Mandy, she very flatly refused to 
accept him as a brother. 

It was now sundown, and the evening 
shadows were gathering in the valley. Far 
and near, the brown thrushes, the cardinal 
grosbeaks, and the catbirds were singing 
in the hedges of sassafras that overgrew 
the old worm fences of the Hodson farm. 
The woods along the mountain-sides were 
almost black with their heavy leafage, and 
the stony peaks of the highest ridge in 
the west, catching the reflection from the 
sunset clouds, looked like heaps of gold. 
A peculiar dryness seemed to pervade 
earth, air, and sky, as if some underground 
volcanic heat had banished every trace of 
moisture from the soil, whilst the sun 
had desiccated the atmosphere. Even the 
clouds, scudding overhead, had the look of 
being crisp and withered. 

With all a Sand Mountain man's faith in 



HODSON'S HIDE-OUT 99 

the universal efficacy of fried bacon, Hod- 
son ordered supper to be prepared. Mandy 
rolled up the sleeves of her homespun 
dress, showing arms as white and plump 
as those of a babe, and proceeded to cut 
some long slices of streaked " side-meat," as 
the mountaineers term smoked breakfast- 
bacon, while her father started a fire on 
the liberal hearth. The supper was rather 
greasy, but not unpalatable, the fried corn- 
bread and crisp meat being supplemented 
by excellent coffee. During the meal 
Hodson plied D'Antinac with questions as 
to where he had spent all these years of 
absence, questions very hard to answer sat- 
isfactorily. 

Mrs. Hodson silently watched the young 
man, with a doubting, wistful look in her 
watery eyes, as if she could not make up 
her mind to trust him wholly, and yet 
was anxious to accept him as her long-lost 
son. Mandy scarcely lifted her face after 
she sat down at the table, but D'Antinac 



100 HODSON'S HIDE-OUT 

fancied he could detect a dimpling ripple 
of suppressed merriment about her rosy 
cheeks and mouth. 

When supper was over, and Mandy had 
washed the dishes and put them away, 
Hodson proposed music ; he was almost 
hilarious. 

" Ye ricollec' Jord, don't ye, Dave ? Our 
ole nigger feller — course ye do, yer boun' 
ter ricollec' 'im, could n't never furgit 'im ; 
mean ole villyun, but er good hand ter hoe 
cotting an' pull fodder. Well, he 's jest 
got in from the upper co'n-fiel', an' is er 
feedin' 'is mule. Soon es he comes ter 'is 
cabing, I '11 call 'im in ter pick the banjer 
fur ye, an' I don't whant ye ter say nothin' 
'bout who ye air, an' see ef he 'members 
ye." 

Of course D'Antinac assented ; there 
v/as nothing else for him to do. In fact, 
he was beginning to feel a sharp interest 
in the progress of this queer farce. He 
tried to get a look into Mandy's roguish 



HODSON'S HIDE-OUT lOI 

eyes, that he might be sure of her sympa- 
thy ; but she avoided him, her cheeks all the 
time burning with blushes, and her yellow- 
ish hair tossed loosely over her neck and 
shoulders. Presently Hodson went out to 
bring in Jord and the banjo. It was dur- 
ing his absence, and while Mrs. Hodson 
was stooping over the embers on the 
hearth, trying to scoop up a coal to light 
her pipe, that the bashful girl got up and 
walked across the room. As she passed 
D'Antinac, she whispered : — 

" Ye must 'member Jord soon es ye see 
'im — don't ye fail. Save er rumpus." 

" All right," whispered D'Antinac. 

Hodson reentered in due time, followed 
by a slender, bony negro man, whose iron- 
gray wool and wrinkled face indexed his 
age at near seventy years. 

'* Jording, der ye know this yere gentle- 
man ? " said Hodson, pointing at D'Anti- 
nac and grinning triumphantly. 

" Naw, sah, don't fink er do," answered 



102 HODSON'S HIDE-OUT 

the negro, twirling his banjo in a self-con- 
scious way, and bowing obsequiously. 

Mrs. Hodson and Mandy interchanged 
half-frightened grimaces, followed by fur- 
tive glances toward the man of the house. 

" Jording," said Hodson, " ef ye don't 
tell me who this yere feller air in less 'n a 
minute, I '11 jest nat'rally take the ramrod 
out'n Hornet," pointing to a long rifle that 
hung over the door, " an' I '11 jest wax hit 
to ye, tell ye '11 be glad ter 'member mos' 
anybody. Now talk it out quick ! " 

Mandy gave D'Antinac a sign with her 
eyes. Mrs. Hodson clasped her thin, 
work-worn hands. 

" Why, Jord, old fellow, don't you re- 
member Dave ! " exclaimed D'Antinac, 
taking a step forward, and simulating great 
joy and surprise. 

" W-w-w'at Dave is yer tarkin' 'bout?" 
stammered the poor old negro. 

Hodson's face instantly swelled with 
rage, and he certainly would have done 




\V-W— WAT DAVE IS YER TARKIN' -BOUT?' 



HODSON'S HIDE-OUT IO3 

something desperate had not D'Antinac 
just then closed up the space between him- 
self and Jord. Mandy, too, joined the 
group and whispered : — 

" Don't be er fool, Jord, say hit 's Dave 
come back f'om the wa'." 

Jord's wits and conscience were a little 
refractory, but Mandy 's voice found an 
able auxiliary in the fact that Hodson had 
by this time got possession of the rifle- 
ramrod, and was flourishing it furiously. 

" W'y, Mars Dave ! dis you ? 'Clar' ter 
goodness de ole niggah's eyes gittin' pow'- 
ful pore ! Did n' know yer no mo'n nuffin' 
at fus' ; but yer look jes' es nat'ral es der 
ole mule ter me now. Wha' ye been all 
dis time. Mars Dave ? 'Clar' ter goodness 
ye 'sprise de ole niggah's senses mos' out'n 
'im, yer does fo' sho' ! " 

While Jord was thus delivering himself, 
he kept one eye queerly leering at D'An- 
tinac, and the other glaring wildly at the 
wavering ramrod. 



104 HODSON'S HIDE-OUT 

" Ther', what 'd I tell ye ? " exclaimed 
Hodson vociferously ; " what 'd I tell ye ! 
Jord 'members 'im ! Hit air Dave, she 's ye 
bo'n, Sarah ! Hit air our boy, fur a fac', 
the blamed little rooster ! He wus n't killed 
in no wa', Sarah ! I alius tole ye 'at he 'd 
come back, an' sho' 'nuff, yer he air ! Hal- 
looyer ! " As he spoke he capered awk- 
wardly over the floor to the imminent 
danger of every one's toes. When his 
ecstasy had somewhat abated, he turned to 
Jord, his face beaming with delight. 

" Now, Jording," he said, " give us my 
favoryte song; an', Jording, put on the 
power, put on the power ! This yere 's a 
'cashun of onlimited rejoicin' ! Hain't it, 
Sarah ? " 

" Hit air," responded Mrs. Hodson, puff- 
ing lazily at her old pipe. 

Hodson took a chair, placed it close 
beside his wife, sat down with his hand 
caressing her shoulder, and whispered : — 

" Hain't this yere jest glor'ous .? " 



HODSON'S HIDE-OUT 105 

" Hit air," she answered lifelessly. 

Mandy's face was as pink as the petals 
of a wild rose, and her heart was fluttering 
strangely. 

D'Antinac, keenly alive to the dramatic 
situation, and somewhat troubled as to how 
it was to end, glanced around the room, 
and, despite his mental perturbation, be- 
came aware of the rude but powerful set- 
ting of the scene. The pine-smoked walls 
and ceiling, the scant, primitive furniture, 
the scrupulously clean puncheon floor, the 
long flint-locked rifle, the huge "stick and 
dirt " fireplace, the broad, roughly laid 
hearth, and the smoke-grimed wooden 
crane, all taken together, made an entourage 
in perfect accord with the figures, the cos- 
tumes, and the predicament. 

Jord tuned his banjo with some show of 
faltering, and presently he began to play 
and sing. The following, which were the 
closing stanzas, will serve to give an idea 
of the performance : — 



I06 HODSON'S HIDE-OUT 

" Ab'um Linkum say he gwine ter 

Free ole niggah in de wah, 

But Mars Hodson say he mine ter 

See how Ab'um do dat dar ! 
Hoop-te-loody, how ye gwine ter 
When Mars Hodson not er mine ter ? 

" Den ole Ab'um say ; 'You free um ! ' 

But Mars Hodson cut an' shoot, 

An' say to Ab'um dat he see 'um 

At de debbil 'fore he do 't ! 
Hoop-te-loody, how ye gwine ter 
When Mars Hodson not er mine ter ? " 

" That air a fac'," exclaimed Hodson 
almost gleefully, " that air a fac'. Here 's 
what never guv in yit, Dave ! They tried 
fur ter mek me fight fur the Confed'ret 
States an' they never done hit, an' 'en they 
tried ter conscrip' me, like they did you, 
Dave, but I cut 'em an' shot 'em an' hid 
out aroun' in these yere woods tell they 
guv my place the name o' Hide-out, an' 
they did n't conscrip' me, nuther ; an' 'en 
the tother gov'ment proclamated an' sot 
ever'body's niggers free, but yer daddy hel' 



HODSON'S HIDE-OUT 10/ 

on ter his one lone nigger jes' ter show 
'em 'at he could, fur ther 's not a gov'ment 
onto the top side o' yearth 'at kin coerce 
er subjugate yer daddy, Dave." 

Jord hung his head in the utmost 
humility while his master was speaking. 
A keen pang of sympathy shot through 
D'Antinac's bosom. The thought that 
this kindly-faced old negro was still a 
slave, the one lone man of his race, whose 
shackles remained unbroken, was touching 
beyond compare. And yet it seemed in 
consonance with the nature of things that 
such a person as Hodson should be able, 
situated as he was, to resist, for any length 
of time, the tide of the new regime. This 
easy turn from the absurd to the pathetic 
gave a new force to the situation, harden- 
ing and narrowing its setting, whilst it 
added infinite depth to its meaning. Here- 
indeed, was the very heart of Sand Moun- 
tain, and well might it be called Hodson's 
Hide-out, where slavery's last victim had 



I08 HODSON'S HIDE-OUT 

been hidden safe from the broad eyes of 
freedom. 

D'Antinac could not sleep when at last 
he had been left by Hodson in a little 
dingy room, whither his gun and pack had 
also been transported. The bed was soft 
and clean, and the moonlight pouring 
through a low, square, paneless window 
invited to sleep; he lay there pondering 
and restless. Hodson's last words, before 
bidding him good-night, kept ringing in 
his ears : — 

" Thet ole Jording air a livin' ezample 
o' my 'termination an' ondurence, Dave, 
an' hit shows what stuff yer daddy 's made 
out'n. The whole etarnal worl' kin never 
free that air nigger. He er mine ter keep, 
es the ole hymn say, ' whatever may 
erpose.' " 

D'Antinac was small of stature and not 
at all a hero mentally; but he had come 
of a liberty loving ancestry, and was, de- 
spite his foreign looking name, an Ameri- 



HODSON'S HIDE-OUT IO9 

can to his heart's core. No doubt the 
wild roving life he had for years been lead- 
ing, as an emissary of an ornithological 
society, had served to emphasize and ac- 
centuate his love of freedom in every sense. 

He had turned and tossed on his bed 
for several hours, when a peculiar voice, 
between a chant and a prayer in its into- 
nations, came in through the little window, 
along with the white stream of moonlight. 
He got up and softly went to the aperture. 
The voice came from a little detached 
cabin in the back yard. It was Jord pray- 
ing. 

" Lor', hab de ole man sarb ye well an' 
true } Mus' I die er slabe an' come 'ome 
ter glory wid de chain on ? What I done, 
Lor', 'at ye 'zart me when I 'se ole ? Is I 
nebber gwine ter be free ? Come down. 
Lor', an', 'stain de ole man in he 'fliction 
an' trouble, an', O Lor', gib 'im ole eyes 
one leetle glimp' ob freedom afore he die. 
Amen." 



no HODSON'S HIDE-OUT 

Such were the closing words of the 
plaintive and touching prayer. No won- 
der that suddenly D'Antinac's whole life 
focused itself in the desire to liberate that 
old slave. He forgot every element of his 
predicament, save his nearness to the last 
remnant of human bondage. He drew on 
his clothes, seized his pack and gun, and 
slyly crept out through the little window. 
The cool, sweet mountain air braced him 
like wine. This ought to be the breath of 
freedom. These rugged peaks surround- 
ing the little " pocket " or valley ought not 
to fence in a slave or harbor a master. 

Riley Hodson slept soundly all night, 
and did not get up before breakfast was 
ready. 

" Let the little rooster sleep ; hit air 
Sunday, anyhow; let 'im git up when he 
whants ter," said the old man, when D'An- 
tinac failed to appear. 

Mandy had fried some ham and eggs 
for breakfast, and she came to the table 



HODSON'S HIDE-OUT III 

clad in a very becoming calico gown. Mrs. 
Hodson appeared listless, and her eyes had 
no cheerful light in them. The old man 
ate ravenously the choicest eggs and the 
best slices of ham, with the air of one de- 
termined upon vicariously breaking the 
fast of the entire household. But Mandy 
had saved back in the frying-pan some 
extra bits for the young stranger. 

An hour passed. 

" Guess the blamed little rooster air 
a-goin' ter snooze all day. Mebbe I 'd bet- 
ter wake 'im," Hodson at last said, and 
went to the little bedroom. He tapped on 
the door, but got no response. Then he 
pounded heavily and called out : — 

" Hullo, Dave ! " 

Silence followed. He turned and glared 
at Mrs. Hodson, then at Mandy. 

" The blamed little rooster ! " he mut- 
tered, flinging open the door. For many 
seconds he stood peering into the room. 
Presently he clutched the doorpost to 



112 HODSON'S HIDE-OUT 

steady himself, then he reeled round, and 
his face grew white. 

" Dave er gone ! " he gasped ; " Dave er 
gone ! Lor-r-d, Sarah, he air gone ag'in ! " 

Almost involuntarily Mandy went to 
the bedroom door and confirmed her fa- 
ther's assertion. Mrs. Hodson was quiet. 
Indeed, there seemed to have fallen a per- 
fect hush over the valley and the moun- 
tains. 

Riley Hodson soon rallied. He sprang 
to his feet like a tiger. 

" Mandy," he stormed, " go tell Jording 
ter bridle an' saddle the mule, quick ! " 

Mandy went at his command, as if blown 
by his breath. In a few minutes she re- 
turned, white as a ghost, and gasped : — 

" Jord er gone ! " 

"What! How! Gone! Jording!" 

" He air gone," Mandy repeated, holding 
out a two-dollar " greenback " bill in one 
hand and a piece of writing-paper in the 
other. 



HODSON'S HIDE-OUT II3 

" I got these yere off 'n Jord's table." 
With great difficulty and in a breathless 

way, she read aloud what was hastily 

scrawled on the paper : — 

Mr. Hodson : 

Dear Sir, — You are greatly mistaken; 
I am not your son- I never saw you or 
any member of your family in my life be- 
fore yesterday. Your wife and daughter 
are both well aware of your curious illu- 
sion. Jordan, whom I take with me to 
freedom, knows that I am not your lost 
son. In fact, I am. 

Very respectfully yours, 

David D'Antinac. 

P. S. A letter will reach me if di- 
rected in care of the Smithsonian Institu- 
tion at Washington, D. C. I inclose two 
dollars to pay for the trouble I have 
given you. 

Hodson caught his mule, bridled it and 



114 HODSON'S HIDE-OUT 

saddled it, and rode away up the zigzag 
mountain trail in pursuit of the fugitives ; 
but he did not catch them. At nightfall 
he returned in a sombre mood, with a look 
of dry despair in his eyes. For a long 
while he did not speak; but at length, 
when his wife came and sat down close 
beside him, he muttered : — 

" Wer' hit Dave, Sarah ? " 

" Hit wer' not," she answered ; " Dave 
never had no mole onter 'is chin." 



RUDGIS AND GRIM 

" When Freedom from her mountain height." 

The Rudgis farm was the only one in 
Lone Ridge Pocket, a secluded nook of 
the North Georgia mountain-region, and its 
owner, Eli Rudgis, was, in the ante-bellum 
time, a man among the simple and honest 
people who dwelt beside the little crooked 
highway leading down the valley of the 
Pine-log Creek. He owned but one ne- 
gro, as was often the case with them, and 
he had neither wife nor children. His 
slave was his sole companion of the hu- 
man kind, sharing with certain dogs, pigs, 
horses, and oxen a rude, democratic dis- 
tribution of favors and frowns. As a man 
this negro was an interesting specimen of 
the genuine African : short, strongly built, 
but ill-shapen, with a large head firmly 



Il6 RUDGIS AND GRIM 

braced by a thick, muscular neck on broad, 
stooping shoulders; a skin as black as 
night ; small deep-set eyes ; a protruding, 
resolute jaw ; and a nose as flat as the head 
of an adder. As a slave he was, perhaps, 
valuable enough in his way; but both as 
man and thrall he did no discredit to his 
name, which was Grim. He, too, was a 
familiar figure along the Pine-log road, as 
he drove an old creaking ox-cart to and 
from the village. 

When the war broke out, master and 
slave had reached the beginning of the 
downward slope of life, and, having spent 
many years together in their lonely retreat 
at the Pocket, had grown to love each 
other after the surly, taciturn fashion of 
men who have few thoughts and a meagre 
gift of expression. 

Eli Rudgis was tall, slim, cadaverous, 
slow of movement, and sallow ; but he had 
a will of his own, and plenty of muscle to 
enforce it withal. 



RUDGIS AND GRIM 11/ 

" Grim," said he one day, " them derned 
Northerners air a-goin' ter set ye free." 

The negro looked up from the hickory- 
bark basket he was mending, and scowled 
savagely at his master. 

" Wat yo' say, Mars' Rudgis ? " he pre- 
sently inquired. 

" Them Yankees air a-goin' ter gi' ye^ 
yer freedom poorty soon." 

Grim's face took on an expression of 
dogged determination, his shoulders rose 
almost to the level of his protruding ears, 
and his small, wolfish eyes gleamed fiercely. 

" Who say dey gwine ter do dat ? " he 
demanded with slow, emphatic enunciation. 

" I say hit, an' w'en I says hit," began 
the master ; but Grim broke in with : — 

" Dey cayn't do nuffin' wid me. I done 
made up my mine ; dis chil' cayn't be 
fo'ced. Yo' yah dat. Mars' Rudgis ? " 

Rudgis grinned dryly, and walked away, 
smoking his cob-pipe with the air of a phi- 
losopher who bides his time. 



Il8 RUDGIS AND GRIM 

The Rudgis cabin was a low, nonde- 
script log structure of three or four rooms 
and a wide entry or hall, set in the midst of 
a thick, luxuriant orchard of peach, plum, 
and apple trees crowning a small conical 
foothill, which, seen from a little distance, 
appeared to rest against the rocky breast 
of the mountain that stood over against 
the mouth of the Pocket. From the rick- 
ety veranda, where Rudgis now sought a 
seat, there was a fine view of the little 
farm, whose angular but rolling patches of 
tillable land straggled away to the foothills 
on the other side of the Pocket, beyond 
which the wall of cliffs rose, gray and 
brown, to a great height. 

Recently Eli Rudgis had been thinking 
a good deal about Grim ; for, as the war 
continued, it grew in his mind that the 
South was going to lose the fight. He 
had only recently heard of President Lin- 
coln's emancipation proclamation, and with 
that far-seeing prudence characteristic of 



RUDGIS AND GRIM II9 

a certain order of provincial intellect he 
was considering how best to forestall the 
effect of freedom if it should come, as he 
feared it would. Grim was his property, 
valued at about eight hundred dollars in 
" good money," or in Confederate scrip at 
perhaps two or three thousand dollars, 
more or less. He shrank from selling the 
negro, for in his dry, peculiar way he was 
fond of him ; but, on the other hand, he 
could not consent to lose so much money 
on the outcome of an issue not of his own 
making. It can readily be imagined how, 
with ample leisure for reflection, and with 
no other problem to share his attention, 
Rudgis gradually buried himself, so to 
speak, in this desire to circumvent and 
nullify emancipation (in so far as it would 
affect his ownership of Grim) when it 
should come. 

Grim was far more knowing, far better 
informed, and much more of a philosopher, 
than his master gave him credit for being. 



120 RUDGIS AND GRIM 

By some means, as occult as reliable, he 
had kept perfectly abreast of the progress 
of the great weltering, thundering, death- 
dealing tempest of the war, and in his heart 
he felt the coming of deliverance, the jubi- 
lee of eternal freedom for his race. Inca- 
pable, perhaps, of seeing clearly the true 
aspect of what was probably in store for 
him, he yet experienced a change of pros- 
pect that affected every fibre of his imagi- 
nation, and opened wide every pore of his 
sensibility. Naturally wary, suspicious, and 
quick to observe signs, he had been aware 
that his master was revolving some scheme, 
which in all probability would affect a 
change in their domestic relations, to the 
extent, possibly, of severing the tie which 
for so long had bound together the lord 
and the thrall of Lone Ridge Pocket. 

" He studyin' 'bout er-sellin' me," he 
soliloquized, as he lingered over his task 
of basket-mending after Rudgis had gone, 
" an' he fink he er-gwine ter fool dis ol' 



RUDGIS AND GRIM 121 

coon. Well, 'fore de Lor', mebbe he 
will." 

" What ye mutterin' thar. Grim .?" called 
the master from his seat on the veranda. 
" What ye growlin' 'bout, lak er pup over 
er ham-bone ? " 

" Nuffin', sah ; I jes' tryin' fo' ter ketch 
dat chune w'at I be'n er-l'arnin'." 

Then to clench the false statement, 
Grim began humming: — 

" De coon he hab er eejit wife, 
Hoe yo' co'n, honey, 
De coon he hab er eejit wife, 
An' she nebber comb her hah in 'er life, 
Keep er-hoein' yo' co'n, honey. 

" An' de coon say : ' I knows w'at I '11 do,' 

Hoe yo' co'n, honey, 
An' his wife she squall out, ' I does too ! ' 
An' she snatch 'im poorty nigh in two. 

Keep er-hoein' yo' co'n, honey. 

" So dat coon he alius ricollec', 

Hoe yo' co'n, honey, 
Ef he talk too loud he mus' expec' 
She scratch he eyes an' wring he neck, 

Keep er-hoein' yo' co'n, honey ! " 



122 RUDGIS AND GRIM 

Rudgis listened stoically enough, so far 
as facial expression went ; but when the 
low, softly melodious song was done, he 
shook his head, and smiled aridly. 

" Got more sense 'an er Philadelphy 
laryer," he muttered under his breath, "an' 
he 's got some undertakin' inter that nog- 
gin er his'n. S'pect I hev ter do some- 
thin' er nother wi' him, er he 's er-goin' ter 
git the best o' me." 

He drew away at his wheezing pipe, 
leaning his chin, thinly fringed with griz- 
zled beard, in his left hand, and propping 
that arm with his knee. His typical moun- 
tain face wore a puzzled, half-worried, half- 
amused expression. 

"Dern'is black pictur'," he continued 
inaudibly, though his lips moved ; " he air 
a-considerin' freedom right now." 

" Whi' man tuk me fer er fool, 

Hoe yo' co'n, honey, 
Wo'k me like er yaller mule, 
An' never gi' me time ter cool, 

Keep er-hoein' yo' co'n, honey," 



RUDGIS AND GRIM 123 

hummed Grim in that tender falsetto of 
his. There was a haze in the air, a May- 
time shimmer over the Pocket and up the 
terraced slopes of the mountains. Sud- 
denly a heavy booming, like distant thun- 
der, tumbled as if in long, throbbing waves 
across the peaks, and fell into the little 
drowsy cove. 

"Wat dat. Mars' Rudgis ? 'Fore de 
Lor', w'at dat ? " cried the negro, leaping 
to his feet, and staring stupidly, his great 
mouth open, his long arms akimbo. 

Eli Rudgis took his pipe-stem from his 
mouth, and sat in a barkening attitude. 
" Hit 's thet air war er-comin'," he pre- 
sently said, and resumed his smoking and 
reflections. 

" De good Lor', Mars' Rudgis, w'at we 
gwine ter do? " stammered Grim, his heavy 
countenance growing strangely ashen over 
its corrugated blackness. 

" Shet erp, an' mend that ther' basket," 
growled the master. " Goin' ter mek ye 



124 RUDGIS AND GRIM 

wo'k like the devil er-beatin' tan-bark while 
I kin: fer thet's yer frien's er-comin', ter 
free ye, Grim, shore 's shootin'." 

The African bowed his head over his 
light task, and remained thoughtfully si- 
lent, while the dull pounding in the far 
distance increased to an incessant roar, 
vague, wavering, suggestive, awful. 

Rudgis thought little of the wider sig- 
nificance accompanying that slowly rolling 
tempest of destruction ; his mental vision 
was narrowed to the compass of the one 
subject which lately had demanded all his 
powers of consideration. Was it possible 
for him to hold Grim as his slave despite 
the Proclamation of Emancipation, and 
notwithstanding the triumph of the Federal 
armies ? 

" Ef I try ter take 'im down the country 
ter sell 'im, they '11 conscrip' me inter the 
war," he argued to himself, " an' ef I stays 
yer them 'fernal Yankees '11 set 'im free. 
Seem lak it air pow'ful close rubbin' an', 



RUDGIS AND GRIM 12$ 

dern ef I know what ter do ! I air kind 
o' twixt the skillet an' the coals." 

Day after day he sat smoking and cogi- 
tating, while Grim pottered at this or that 
bit of labor. He had an unconquerable 
aversion to going into the army, a thing 
he had avoided, partly by reason of his 
age and partly by one personal shift or an- 
other, after the exigencies of the Confeder- 
acy had led to the conscription of " able- 
bodied men " regardless of age. He felt 
that things were growing to desperate 
straits in the low country, and he feared to 
show himself outside his mountain fastness 
lest a conscript officer might nab him and 
send him to the front. Not that he was a 
coward ; but in the high, dry atmosphere 
of the hill country there lingered a sweet 
and inextinguishable sense of loyalty to 
the old flag, which touched the minds of 
many mountaineers with a vague intima- 
tion of the enormity of rebellion against the 
government of Washington and Jackson. 



126 RUDGIS AND GRIM 

And yet they were Southerners, good 
fighters, Yankee-haters, and clung to the 
right of property in their negroes with a 
tenacity as tough as the sinews of their 
hardy limbs. They were, indeed, far more 
stubborn in this last regard than any of 
the great slave-owners of the low country, 
owing, no doubt, to their narrow, provin- 
cial notions of personal independence, 
which felt no need for aid, or for the in- 
terference of the law in their private con- 
cerns. 

Grim was not a typical slave, but he 
was a legitimate instance of the slavery 
known in the secluded region of the South- 
ern mountain country. He was as free, in 
all but name, as were most illiterate labor- 
ers of that day, barring that his skin and 
the Southern traditions set him on a plane 
far below and quite detached from that of 
the lowest white men. He had no bonds 
that galled him personally; plenty to eat, 
just enough work to keep him robust, a 



RUDGIS AND GRIM 12/ 

good bed, sufficient clothing, and unlimited 
tobacco — what more could he want ? 

His master, however, observed that he 
was doing a great deal of thinking ; that 
lately he was busying his mind with some 
absorbing problem, and from certain signs 
and indications the fact appeared plain 
that Grim was making ready to meet the 
day of freedom. Rudgis saw this with a 
dull, deep-seated sentimental pang mixed 
with anger and resentment. Years of 
companionship in that lonely place had 
engendered a fondness for his slave of 
which he was not fully aware, and out of 
which was now issuing a sort of bewilder- 
ment of mind and soul. Would Grim in- 
deed forsake him, desert him to go away 
to try the doubtful chances of a new order 
of things ? This question was supple- 
mented by another on a different stratum 
of human selfishness. Rudgis like all 
mountain-men, had a narrow eye to profit 
and loss. The money represented by 



128 RUDGIS AND GRIM 

Grim as his slave possessed a powerful in- 
fluence; it was the larger part of his 
fortune. 

Grim, on his part, watched his master 
as the tide of war flowed on through 
the mountain-gaps far to the west of the 
Pocket ; his calculations were simpler and 
more directly personal than those of his 
master. Of course things could not re- 
main in this situation very long. Grim 
was the first to speak straight to the sub- 
ject. 

" Mars' Rudgis," said he one day, " yo' 
be'n 'siderin' erbout sellin' me." 

This direct accusation took the master 
unawares. 

" Wha-wha-what 's that air ye air er-say- 
in', ye ol' whelp ? " he spluttered, almost 
dropping his pipe. 

" Yo' be'n er-finkin' 'at I 's gittin' close 
onter de freedom line, an' ye s'pose yo' 'd 
better git w'at ye kin fo' me, yah-yah-yah- 
ee-oorp ! " and the black rascal broke forth 



RUDGIS AND GRIM 129 

with a mighty guffaw, bending himself al- 
most double, and slapping his hands vigor- 
ously. " But yo' 's feared dey git ye an' 
mek yo' tote er gun, an' 'at yo' 'd git de 
stufifin' shot outen yo' ef yo' try take me 
down de country, yah-yah-yah-ee-ee-oorp ! " 

"Shet erp ! What ye mean ? Stop thet 
air sq'allin', er I'll" — 

*' Yah-yah-yah-ee-eep ! I done cotch outer 
yo' ca'c'lation, Mars' Rudgis, 'fo' de Lor' I 
has, oh ! Yah-yah-yah-yah-ha-eep ! An' yo' 
fink I 's er eejit all dis time, yah-yah-yah ! 
Oh, gi' 'long, Mars' Rudgis, yo' cayn't 
fool dis chicken, yah-ha-yah-ha-ha-ha-ee- 
eer-pooh ! " 

Rudgis tried several times to stop this 
flow of accusative mirth, but at last, quite 
confused, he stood tall and gaunt, with a 
sheepish grin on his dry, wrinkled face, 
gazing at the writhing negro as he almost 
screamed out his sententious but fluent 
revelation. 

" I done be'n er-watchin' yo' like er 



I30 RUDGIS AND GRIM 

sparrer-hawk watchin' er peewee, Mars' 
Rudgis, an' I say ter myself : ' Jes' see .'im 
er-figerin' how much I 's wo'f, an' how 
much he gwine ter lose w'en I goes free. 
An' I done be'n jes' er-bustin' over it all 
dis time, yah-yah-yah-ee-ee ! ' " 

" Grim," said Rudgis, presently, with 
slow, emphatic expression, " I air er-goin' 
'mejitly ter give ye one whirpin' 'at ye '11 
ricomember es long es they 's breath in 
yer scurvy ol' body ! " 

They were standing on the veranda at 
the time. Rudgis turned into the entry, 
and immediately came out with a ramrod 
in his hand. 

" Now fer yer sass ye air er-goin' ter 
ketch hit," he said, in that cold, rasping 
tone which means so much. " Stan' erp 
yer an' take yer med'cine." 

Grim went down on his knees and be- 
gan to beg; his mirth had vanished; he 
was trembling violently. Rudgis had never 
whipped him. 



RUDGIS AND GRIM 131 

•' Fo' de Lor' sake, Mars' Eli, don' w'irp 
de po' ol' chir ! I war jes funnin', Mars' 
Rudgis ; I jes' want ter see w'at yo' gwine 
say. I" — 

At that moment there was a great clat- 
ter of iron-shod hoofs at the little yard 
gate ; the next, three or four horses 
bounded over the low fence and dashed up 
to the veranda. 

" Please, Mars' Rudgis, don' w'irp me ! I 
did n' mean no harm. Mars' Rudgis,' deed 
I did n' ! Oh, fo' de Lor' sake ! " 

" Ha ! there ! stop that ! " commanded a 
loud, positive voice. " What the devil do 
you mean ! " 

Rudgis had already looked that way. 
He saw some mounted soldiers, wearing 
blue uniforms and bearing bright guns, 
glaring at him. 

" Oh, Mars' Rudgis, I never gwine do so 
no mo', don' w'irp me ! don' w'irp me ! " 
continued Grim, paying no heed to the 
soldiers. 



132 RUDGIS AND GRIM 

" Le' me off dis yer time, fo' de goo' 
Lor' sake ! " And he held up his hands 
in dramatic beseechment. 

" If you strike that negro one blow, I '11 
shoot a hole through you quicker than 
lightning ! " roared one of the men, who 
appeared to be an officer, at the same time 
leveling his pistol. 

Rudgis dropped the ramrod as if he had 
been suddenly paralyzed. Grim sprang to 
his feet with the agility of a black cat. 

" What does this mean .? " demanded the 
officer, showing a gleam of anger in his 
eyes, his voice indicating no parleying 
mood. 

Rudgis stood there, pale, stolid, silent, 
his mouth open, his arms akimbo. 

'• Lor', sah, we jes' er-foolin'," said Grim, 
seeing that his master could find not a 
word to say. " We 's er-playin' hoky-poky." 

The officer leaned over his saddle-bow, 
and looked from one to the other of the 
culprits. 



RUDGIS AND GRIM 133 

" Yes, sah it war bony-hokus 'at we 's 
er-playin', 'zac'ly dat, sah," continued Grim. 

" Playing what ? " grimly inquired the 
officer. 

" Rokus-pokus, sah." 

" You lying old scamp," cried the officer, 
glaring at him, " you 're trying to deceive 
me!" 

" Ax Mars' Rudgis, now ; ax him, sah." 

" Humph ! " and the Federal officer 
turned to the master. " What do you say, 
sir ? " 

" Tell 'im, Mars' Rudgis ; 'bout w'at we 's 
er-playin'," pleaded Grim. 

Rudgis moved his lips as if to speak, but 
they were dry and made no sound. He 
licked them with his furred, feverish tongue. 
Never before had he been so thoroughly 
frightened. 

" Are you dumb ? " stormed the officer, 
again handling his weapon. " Can't you 
speak ? " 

" Hit were hoky-poky," gasped Rudgis. 



134 RUDGIS AND GRIM 

" Dah, now ! Dah, now ! Mebbe yo 's 
sat'sfied, sah. W'a' 'd I tol' yo' ? " cried 
Grim, wagging his head and gesticulating. 
" We's jes'er-playin' dat leetle game." 

The officer wanted some information 
about a road over the mountain, so he 
made Grim saddle a mule and go with him 
to show the way. As he rode off he called 
back to Rudgis : — 

" This man 's as free as you are, and he 
need n't come back if he don't want to." 

When they were quite gone, and the last 
sound of their horses' feet had died away 
down in the straggling fringe of trees at 
the foot of the hill, Rudgis picked up his 
ramrod and looked at it quizzically, as if 
he expected it to speak. Slowly his face 
relaxed, and a queer smile drew it into 
leathery wrinkles. 

"Hit were hoky-poky, by gum!" he 
muttered. " The dern ol' scamp ! " 

Presently he filled his pipe, and lighted 
it, grinning all the while, and saying : — 




HE FILLED HIS PIPE, AND LIGHTED IT 



RUDGIS AND GRIM 135 

" The triflin' ol' rooster, he hed half er 
dozen dif ent names fer it ; but hit were 
hoky-poky jes' the same. The dern old 
coon ! " 

The day passed, likewise the night; 
but Grim did not return. A week, a 
month, six months ; no Grim, no mule. 
Sherman had swept through Georgia, and 
on up through the Carolinas ; Johnston 
and Lee had surrendered. Peace had 
fallen like a vast silence after the awful din 
of war. The worn and weary soldiers of 
the South were straggling back to their 
long-neglected homes to resume as best 
they could the broken threads of their 
peaceful lives. 

Rudgis missed Grim more as a compan- 
ion than as a slave. He mourned for him, 
in a way, recalling his peculiarities, and 
musing over that one superb stroke of wit 
by which, perhaps, his life had been saved. 
Never did he fail, at the end of such rev- 
erie, to repeat, more sadly and tenderly 



136 RUDGIS AND GRIM 

each time, " Hit war hoky - poky, blame 
his ol' hide ! " The humor of this verbal 
reference was invariably indicated by a 
peculiar rising inflection in pronouncing 
" were," by which he meant to accentuate 
lovingly Grim's prompt prevarication. 

Spring had come again to the moun- 
tains, bringing its gush of greenery, its 
mellow sunshine, and its riotous birds. 
Into the Pocket blew a breeze, soft, fra- 
grant, dream - burdened, eddying like a 
river of sweets around the lonely, embow- 
ered cabin. 

Early one morning Rudgis was smok- 
ing in his accustomed seat on the veranda. 
In his shirt-sleeves, bareheaded and bare- 
footed, his cotton shirt open wide at throat 
and bosom, he looked like a bronze statue 
of Emancipation, so collapsed, wrinkled, 
and sear was he. His Roman nose was 
the only vigorous feature of his unkempt 
and retrospective face. 

The sound of a mule's feet trotting up 



RUDGIS AND GRIM 137 

the little stony road did not attract his 
curiosity, albeit few riders passed that 
way; but when Grim came suddenly in 
sight, it was an apparition that relaxed 
every fibre of Rudgis's frame. He dropped 
lower in the old armchair, his arms fell 
limp, and his mouth opened wide, letting 
fall the cob-pipe. He stared helplessly. 

" Yah I is, Mars' Rudgis ; got back at 
las'. How ye do. Mars' Rudgis ? " 

There was a ring of genuine delight in 
the negro's voice, — the timbre of loyal 
sentiment too sweet for expression in writ- 
ten language. He slid from the mule's 
back, — not the same mule that he had 
ridden away, but an older and poorer one, 
— and scrambled through the lopsided 
gate. 

" Well, by dad ! " was all Rudgis could 
say ; " well, by dad ! " His lower jaw wab- 
bled and sagged. 

" Tol' yo' dey could n't sot dis niggah 
free, did n' 1 1 " cried Grim, as he made 



138 RUDGIS AND GRIM 

a dive for both his old master's hands. 
" I 's come back ter 'long ter yo' same lak 
I alius did. Yah, sah ; yah, sah." 

Rudgis arose slowly from his seat and 
straightened up his long, lean form so 
that he towered above the short, sturdy 
negro. He looked down at him in silence 
for some moments, his face twitching 
strangely. Slowly the old-time expression 
began to appear around his mouth and 
eyes. With a quick step he went into the 
house, and returned almost instantly, bear- 
ing a ramrod in his hand. 

" Well, Grim," he said, with peculiar 
emphasis, " ef ye air still my prop'ty, an' 
ye don't objec', s'posin' we jes' finish up 
that air leetle game er hoky-poky what we 
was er playin' w'en them Yankees kem 
an' bothered us." 



A RACE ROMANCE 

For many years Wiley Brimson had 
been the owner of Sassafras Pocket, a 
small but fertile nook between two great 
projections of what is known as the Pine- 
log Mountain in Cherokee, Georgia. He 
owned one slave, a coal-black negro, whom 
for the greater part of his lifetime he had 
threatened with condign freedom. 

" Ef they air anythin' 'at air pine-blank 
wrong," he was fond of saying, " hit air 
human slavery. Ther' 's thet nigger o' 
mine, thet nigger Rory ; he 's jes' as good 
as I air. He hev jes' as much right ter 
boss me as I hev ter boss him. He orter 
be free; but then I cayn't stan' the ex- 
pense o' settin' 'im free, fer he 's wo'th 
nigh onto thirteen hundred dollars. Hit 
air too much money ter lose." 



140 A RACE ROMANCE 

A great deal of talk in this strain made 
Brimson unpopular long before the war 
broke out. The fact is, he was not of a 
disposition to be a common favorite at 
best, especially among the mountaineers, 
who are the most conservative and least 
argumentative folk in the world, while at 
the same time they are the most tenacious 
of their opinions, right or wrong. 

Rory, the negro, was younger than his 
master, and had been bought by him at 
•sheriff's sale as the legal victim sacrificed 
to pay the debt of a drunkard. 

" Ye may thank yer lucky stars, Rory, 
thet I hed thet money on han' an' bought 
ye," Brimson often said to his slave; " fer 
ef I hed n't 'a' done it ye 'd 'a' went down 
ter New Orleans jest er-callyhootin'." 

This was true, for a buyer who traded 
in the Louisiana market was present at 
the sale and bid close to the margin on 
Rory, who at the time was a strong, fine 
boy of fifteen. 



A RACE ROMANCE 141 

Brimson was a bachelor, and very natu- 
rally found Rory a most acceptable and 
interesting companion as well as a decid- 
edly clever and faithful servant. The lad's 
droll humor and abundant animal spirits 
filled Sassafras Pocket with new life. 

" The dern leetle rooster," said Brimson 
to a select company over at Peevy's still- 
house, — " the dern leetle rooster, he air 
twice as smart as two white boys. He kin 
sing like er tomtit, he kin climb like er 
squirrel ; he kin run like er rabbit, an' he 
kin pick the banjer ekal ter er showman." 

As time went by and Rory grew to stal- 
wart manhood, his master's admiration of 
him confirmed itself in many ways not in 
the least relished by the residents of the 
Pine-log region. 

" W'y, fellers," exclaimed Dick Redden 
to a group of friends, " thet ther' low-down, 
no-'count Brimson, he lets thet ther' nigger 
eat at the table with 'im, an' Gabe Holly 
say he see 'im bite er chaw off' n the nig- 
ger's terbacker." 



142 A RACE ROMANCE 

" Well," remarked Dave Aikens, '* I 
hearn 'im 'low thet he 'd Tarn Rory ter 
read, ef he knowed how his own self." 

" Gent'men," remarked Squire Lem 
Rookey, with a judicial reserve in his man- 
ner, "hit hev some 'pearances 'at Wiley 
Brimson air er dern aberlitionist." 

Usually Squire Rookey 's word was the 
final one, and from that day forth Brim- 
son's name had attached to it the most 
opprobrious qualification to be found in 
the Southern vocabulary. The man was 
ostracized in the fullest sense of the word. 
Such friends as he had now dropped him. 
The meetings over at the still-house voted 
him out, and the children avoided passing 
him in the public road. He felt all this to 
a degree which gradually intensified his 
peculiarities of disposition and shut him 
like a hermit within the limits of Sassafras 
Pocket. 

" Me an' my nigger kin live all ter our- 
selves," he growled, " an' ef folks don't jes' 



A RACE ROMANCE I43 

like our way er doin', w'y, jes' let 'em keep 
off' n these yer premerses." 

Deprived of the social privileges and 
comforts hitherto grudgingly afforded him 
by courtesy of his wide acquaintance in 
Pine-log settlement, he began to thirst for 
education. It is not certainly known how 
he did get it, but in time he learned to 
read and write, after a fashion; and the 
next thing was to teach Rory, who, much 
to Brimson's chagrin, was anything but an 
apt scholar. 

" He air er leetle slow an' sort o' clumsy 
erbout gittin' at the main p'ints o' the 
spellin'-book," was Brimson's self-consola- 
tion ; " but then w'enever he do once git 
started he air er-gwine ter jest knock the 
socks off'n me er-l'arnin', see 'f he don't." 

They usually devoted the warm part of 
the afternoon to the daily lessons, sitting 
side by side on a rude wooden bench in the 
shade of the vine that almost overloaded 
the low, wide, rickety porch on the south 



144 A RACE ROMANCE 

side of Brimson's cabin. Through a rift 
they might have a fine view of the little 
valley, or pocket, beyond which the foot- 
hills swelled up, overtopped by the blue 
peaks of the Pine-log range. On one hand 
they had a garden and truck patch, on the 
other a small area, called the plantation, 
which was given over to corn and wheat 
and cotton. In front, between the house 
and the little gate by the roadside, was the 
well with its mossy curb and long, stone- 
weighted sweep. Brimson was a small 
man, and as he sat by the almost giant 
negro, spelling-book in hand, he looked 
the very embodiment of persistent insigni- 
ficance. A painter might have sketched 
the twain as a study for an allegorical pic- 
ture of the absorption of one race by an- 
other. The massive head and shoulders 
of the negro leaned over the attenuated 
white man, as if about to fall upon him 
and crush him, or as if on the point of 
breathing him in through the gaping. 



A RACE ROMANCE I45 

voluptuous, and infinitely stupid mouth. 
Brimson, irascibly patient and hysterically 
persevering, drilled his good-natured pupil, 
day in and day out, up and down the pages 
of Webster's Spelling-book, and back and 
forth through the mazes of McGuffey's 
First Reader. To Rory all this was a 
sort of fascinating and yet singularly vexa- 
tious punishment, to which he went with 
perfunctory promptness and from which 
he escaped with a sense of taking a deep, 
inspiring draught of thankfulness. He 
often gazed during lesson-time on the 
slender, bloodless cheeks, the sunken pale 
blue eyes, and the broad, high forehead of 
his master, while a vague but powerful 
realization of the Caucasian's superb en- 
dowments crept through his benighted 
consciousness. A glimmer of ambition, 
mysteriously moonlike and wan to Rory's 
vision, began to spread over the much 
thumbed pages of the books. 

" Knowledge air power," urged Brimson 



146 A RACE ROMANCE 

— " hit sattingly air, Rory ; an' him thet 
reads air him thet conquers." 

" Dat 's so, mars' ; dat 's so," responded 
Rory, his voice as vacant as his face. 

" Ye see," continued Brimson, crossing 
the attenuated index finger of his right 
hand over the corresponding member of his 
left, and drawing his earnest little face into 
a wisp of wrinkles — " ye see, Rory, this air 
er day o' liberal idees an' 'mazin' progress. 
Hit air the day o' fraternity an' ekal 
rights." 

" Dat 's so, mars' ; dat 's so." 

" The nigger race '11 be ekal ter any 
race under heving jes' as soon as it kin 
read an' write, Rory." 

" Dat 's so, mars' ; dat 's so." 

The years stole past, and the monotony 
of life in Sassafras Pocket scarcely varied 
a hair's breadth until the great war came 
on and freedom began to send its puffs of 
freshness and fragrance through the air in 
advance of the steadily moving armies of 



A RACE ROMANCE I47 

Sherman and Grant. Rory, by some in- 
direct flash of perception, foresaw the com- 
ing of emancipation long before his mas- 
ter had dared to dream of such a thing ; 
but it brought him no special pleasure. 
Brimson had been fairly kind to him, and 
there was something in the negro's heart 
that drew it tenderly towards the little old 
man. This tenderness was neither love 
nor genuine respect ; it was more a mere 
active quality of Rory's nature. In fact, 
between the black man and the white 
there had long ago risen a vague but pow- 
erful apparition of danger, which both had 
tried to brush aside with sentimental rec- 
ognition of their need of each other. 

*' Hit air inlightenment thet you kin git 
out'n me, Rory, an' hit air work thet I 
kin git out'n you," argued Brimson. 

" Yah, sah ; dat 's so," assented Rory. 

The war went crashing past them, a 
great roaring sea of flame and smoke and 
blood ; but not one ripple of it found a 



148 A RACE ROMANCE 

way into the remote security of Sassafras 
Pocket. The Emancipation Proclamaition 
never reached them, and peace had been 
established for months before they found 
it out. 

Meantime Brimson's patience and zeal- 
ous earnestness in the cause of rescuing 
Rory from heathen ignorance had risen 
to higher and higher planes of self-devo- 
tion; but strangely enough did the negro 
respond. He developed, it is true, and 
rapidly took on a most interesting veneer- 
ing of knowledge, so to speak, outstripping 
his teacher at certain turns of the race, and 
evincing now and again a most wonderful 
acumen; and yet the barbaric nature within 
him seemed to deepen and broaden apace 
with his educational acquirements. His 
taste for baked 'possum grew more intense, 
and his proficiency in banjo-picking won- 
derfully increased, as if his imagination 
were liberating itself altogether along sav- 
age lines. 



A RACE ROMANCE 149 

Brimson obeyed an opposite law, grow- 
ing more and more pale, thin, and ner- 
vous-looking, while his hair whitened and 
his forehead assumed a more pronounced 
scholarly baldness, touched with a bland, 
wavering philanthropic sheen which added 
to his countenance, naturally none too 
strong, the appearance of being about to 
fall into a nebulous state of disintegration. 

" Ye 're free now, Rory," he said one 
day, when at last the news had come to 
the pocket, "an' hit air yer juty ter show 
up freedom at her best paces. Look up 
at the flag, Rory; look up at the flag o' 
liberty ! Hit air yer flag, Rory — yer flag 
thet yer forefathers fit fer at Buncombe 
Hill an' Sarytogy Lane ! Gaze onto the 
yearth, Rory, fer hit jes' nat'rally berlongs 
ter ye. Take hit, Rory, an' rule over hit, 
fer ye 've yarnt hit by yer endoorin' intelli- 
gence an' patriotism ! " 

Rory looked up, as he was bidden, but 
saw no flag ; and as for the earth, that part 



150 A RACE ROMANCE 

of it visible from his point of view was 
merely Sassafras Pocket with its rim of 
purple mountain-peaks. 

" Hit air the leadin' doctrine o' moral 
ph'los'phy thet ter the victor berlongs the 
lands, temptations, an' haryditerments," 
continued Brimson, mopping his brow ; 
" an' now air yer time er never, Rory." 

"Yah, sah; dat's so, sah," said Rory. 
" I gwine ter 'fleet on it p'intedly, sah." 

The war being over and the freedom of 
the colored race having been accomplished, 
the inhabitants of the Pine-log region be- 
gan slowly to relax their feelings towards 
Brimson, and in due time he was once 
more received among the visitors at the 
still-house, albeit he could feel that his re- 
lations with his neighbors were yet pretty 
violently strained, no matter what attempts 
were made to conceal the old dislike. He 
was not a man to care much for public 
opinion, so long as he felt that public opin- 
ion was wrong and his opinion was right ; 



A RACE ROMANCE 15 1 

and now that his privilege of free speech 
was no longer withheld, he enjoyed to the 
fullest airing the philosophy he had been 
storing during all these years of social 
exclusion and unremitting study. 

" He air jest 'zactly the same ole aber- 
lition eejit thet he was afore the war," ex- 
claimed Squire Lem Rookey, whose judi- 
cial caution had been somewhat shaken 
by the cataclysm of rebellion, " an' I jest 
wush thet he hed ter maul rails under er 
nigger boss fer the next forty-nine years." 

" I hearn Gabe Holly say thet Bud 
Peevy tole him thet Wiley Brimson air 
still er-talkin' up nigger soope'ority ter 
thet black Rory," remarked Sol Rowe. 
" Seem lak some fellers cayn't I'arn no 
sense w'en they hev the chaince." 

The real truth was that the neighbor- 
hood viewed with surprise the turn affairs 
seemed to be taking over in the little 
pocket, where the relations between the 
white man and the black, although greatly 



152 A RACE ROMANCE 

altered in name, appeared to be even more 
profitable than under the old order of 
things. Brimson himself was inclined to 
speak boastfully of the fact that it was no 
loss to him that Rory had been made free. 

" Look at my craps," he exclaimed ; 
" they is bigger an' better 'an they ever 
was in them slavery days. Freedom an' 
edication hev made er enlightened laborer 
of Rory. He seem ter take er wider view 
o' the lay o' life 'an he did w'en he war in 
the gallin' chains of onhuman bondage." 

Some of the more impatient and belli- 
cose men of the settlement could with diffi- 
culty brook Brimson's arguments and al- 
lusions. Personal violence surely would 
have been indulged in had it riot been for 
Brimson's age and physical weakness. 

" I 'd slap 'im clean through onto the 
other side o' hisself, w'en he gits ter talkin' 
thet ther' way, ef he wusn't so dern puny- 
lookin'," remarked Bud Peevy ; " but he 
do look more like er runt pig 'at 's fed on 



A RACE ROMANCE 153 

buttermilk 'an any one man I ever see in 
all my life." 

If there had been a disinterested on- 
looker at Sassafras Pocket, the proceed- 
ings there would have furnished him much 
food for reflection as well as no little 
amusement. Brimson was pressing edu- 
cation upon Rory with ever-increasing in- 
sistence, and the negro, though now well 
along in middle life, was beginning to 
show the first signs of genuine advance 
towards self-regard in the matter. 

" How kin dis book-l'arnin' eber do me 
any good ? Ain't I er nigger all de same, 
arter I done fill myse'f full o' dat edica- 
tion ? " he would demand, wagging his 
head half willfully, half doubtfully. " Tell 
me dat, now." 

" Wat ef ye air er nigger ? Wat do thet 
ermount to ? Ain't the Constertootion of 
the Union done said 'at all men is free an' 
ekal ? Ain't ye er man same as any- 
body.?" 



154 A RACE ROMANCE 

" Dat 's SO, boss ; dat 's so." 

This was the first time that Rory ever 
had substituted " boss " for " mars' " in 
talking to Brimson. The latter accepted 
the change with all the secret pleasure 
of a teacher who is proud of his work. 

" An' Rory, ef ye r'ally desires the rege- 
lar ole b'iled-down essence o' percoon-root 
freedom, ye mus' jest re'ch out an' take 
hit," he went on, as if delivering a set lec- 
ture to the negro, who stood before him a 
black giant whose massive proportions ap- 
peared to be increasing day by day. 

" Dat 's so, boss ; dat 's so. I 's been er 
sorter calc'latin' 'bout dat yer lately." 

" Well, I 'd s'pose hit war erbout time ye 
was usin' yer gumtion er leetle," continued 
Brimson, excited and encouraged by Rory's 
signs of interest. " 'F I 's you, I 'd take my 
proper position into sassiety, an' I 'd wrest 
f'om the white man my jus' dues. Wat 
hev ye done all yer life } Ye 've worked 
fer the white man. W'at hev ye got fer 



A RACE ROMANCE 155 

hit ? Victuals an' clothes ; whar 'r the 
land ye 've yarnt ? Hit b'longs ter the 
white man. 'F I 's you, I 'd take hit er- 
way f'om 'im. Ye'r' big an' strong, ye 've 
got the power, an' ye'r' foolish ef ye don't 
use it." 

" Dat 's so ; dat 's so ; I 's 'sturbin' my 
min' er mighty heap 'bout dat fing lately ; 
sho 's you born, I is, boss." 

"'Sturbin' yer mind, 'sturbin' yer mind!" 
cried Brimson, with eloquent impatience. 
" W'y don't ye act ? W'y don't ye show 
up yer power .? Wat hev I been er-larnin 
ye all this time ? " 

Gradually, under this sort of pressure, 
Rory lost his childlike simplicity, and his 
bubbling, jocund humor was changed into 
something bordering on moroseness. He 
avoided Brimson at times and brooded 
aside, as if contemplating some deep and 
troublesome problem. Whatever it was, it 
took him a long while to satisfy his mind 
in regard to it ; for the months and years 



156 A RACE ROMANCE 

went by, while he slowly changed from a 
careless, happy negro to a strangely reti- 
cent savage in appearance. So gradual, 
indeed, was this transformation, or rather 
quasi reversion to type, that Brimson did 
not fully realize it. 

The pocket had no visitors now, the 
men of the Pine-log having dropped Brim- 
son again when his doctrines of " freedom 
an' ekality " had becorhe absolutely un- 
bearable to them ; and the two, the white 
and the black, were left undisturbed, while 
the former perfected the latter's education 
and engendered in him the full measure of 
a doctrine whose immense fascination at 
last overcame every opposition in his gen- 
ial temperament and aroused all the dor- 
mant barbarism of his nature. Not that 
in the worst sense Rory became bad ; the 
change in him was more a development 
of the ancient strain of African character, 
which had come to him by hereditary 
descent, but which had needed just this 



A RACE ROMANCE 1 57 

patient drilling by the white man to coax 
it up to something like ancestral force and 
quality. 

It was a red-letter day for Brimson 
when at last Rory assumed full equality 
with him by addressing him as Mr. Brim- 
son. It was done in a manner so superb, 
too, with a gesture and a bodily pose over- 
powering to one of Brimson's nervous 
habit. Rory noted the effect with evident 
satisfaction, while Brimson felt a fine sense 
of self-gratulation suffused throughout his 
diminutive frame. At last he had forced 
the light of high civilization into the ne- 
gro's soul, he thought, and henceforth 
Rory would be a man and a brother, im- 
bued with all the subtle forces of the most 
advanced nineteenth-century life. 

" No, Mr. Brimson ; I cayn't saddle yo' 
boss fer yo' any mo', 'ceptin'" yo' calls me 
Mr. Marting," said Rory, with enormous 
gravity, but with a certain imposing awk- 
wardness which had its weight. 



158 A RACE ROMANCE 

" Never heerd afore 'at that war yer 
name," apologized Brimson, as soon as he 
could find the words. 

" Dat 's hit ; dat 's my name. Mr. Mar- 
ting, sah; Mr. Marting," responded Rory, 
with great emphasis and pride. 

Brimson felt an almost irresistible swell 
of laughter within him, and, strange to say, 
along with it an impulse towards lifting 
his foot and kicking Rory off the veranda. 
What he did do, however, was to say : — 

" Beg parding, Mr. Marting ; but ef ye 
please, sir, fetch out ole Sor'l an' saddle 
'im. I hes er notion ter go erp ter the 
still-house." 

Late on the evening following, Brimson 
returned to his home a pretty badly pun- 
ished man. He had talked too much to 
the wrong person on his favorite topic. 
He was in a desperate mood, which found 
vent in the most intemperate and sweep- 
ing emphasis of his pet opinions. 

" 'F I 's er nigger, I '11 be blamed ef I 



A RACE ROMANCE 159 

w'u'd n't rise erp an' jest nat'rally clean 
erp the whole endoorin' white race ! " he 
raged forth, as he followed Rory down to 
the little rickety log stable, where old Sor- 
rel was to be housed. 

" Dat 's so, Mr. Brimson ; dat 's so," said 
Rory. " Dat 's jest w'at I 's been er mem'- 
rizin' w'ile yo' be'n gone." 

" I 'd rob em ; I 'd take the'r lan's, 
temptations, an' haryditerments ; I 'd mek 
slaves out'n every two-legged one of 'em ; 
I 'd pay 'em back fer the'r meanness an' 
everlastin' onery cussedness, blame ef I 
w'u'd n't, Rory," continued the white man. 

" Dat 's so, Brimson ; dat 's w'at I be'n 
er-studyin' out w'ile yo' be'n gone ter-day, 
Brimson," responded Rory. 

There was something in his voice which 
went like a sudden chill through the hot 
rage of the quondam master. 

As when a man has been lost in the 
woods, and all at once, by a seeming whirl, 
things right themselves and he knows 



l6o A RACE ROMANCE 

where he is, Brimson discovered an aston- 
ishing but quite natural state of affairs. 

Rory unsaddled old Sorrel and put him 
into the stable ; then he came out, shut 
the door, and said : — 

•' I 's done concluded, Brimson, 'at I 's 
de boss roun' yeah. So yo' mought jes' as 
well take yo' med'cine right now ! " 

"Wat— w'at air the matter, Rory.?" 
stammered Brimson. 

Rory stretched forth his brawny hand, 
and, gripping the white man's collar, fairly 
lifted him from the ground. 

" Brimson," he growled, " did n' I tol' 
yo' ter call me Mr. Marting ? Yo' 's gwine 
ter ketch it ef yo' Rory 's dis pusson any 
mo' ! Yo' mem'rize dat, will yo' ! " 

After this Brimson was not seen abroad 
in the Pine-log region, and for months, 
perhaps years, little thought was given to 
him by the people. Often enough Rory 
was observed going to mill on old Sorrel, 
or riding to and from the country town ; 




'CALL ME MR. MARTING" 



A RACE ROMANCE l6l 

but no suspicion of the true status over 
in Sassafras Pocket was aroused until one 
day Bud Peevy, by merest accident, dis- 
covered the whole thing. 

He was sitting on a huge fragment of 
lichen-covered limestone not far from the 
dim little trail which led into the Pocket. 
His gun was lying across his knees, and 
he was fretfully wondering what had be- 
come of the brindle cow he had been look- 
ing for, when a voice, accompanied by the 
sound of shuffling feet, came to his ears 
from some point above him. 

" Hit jest do beat de bery debbil how I 
hab ter war my feets off clean up ter de 
ankles er-runnin' af'er yo', blame yo' ole 
hide ! " 

The voice was a negro's, strong, soft, 
vibrant, full of the peculiar African timbre. 
It was resolute, brimming with self-asser- 
tion, and yet, in a way, it was suggestive 
of something like what one might call 
brutal tenderness. " De bery nex' time 



l62 A RACE ROMANCE 

'at yo' runs erway I jes' gwine ter w'ar yo' 
out! Ye' see 'f I don', Brimson." 

The footfalls came nearer, but the dense 
foliage shut out from Peevy's view every- 
thing more than instantaneous glimpses 
of the approaching forms of two men. 

" Dar 's dat co'n jes' er-gittin' ready ter 
be hoed, an' dar 's dem dar 'bacco plants 
jes' ready ter be sot out, an' yar yo' is er- 
runnin' erway ag'in, dog gone yo' ! " 

Peevy craned his long, lean neck to see, 
if possible, what strange thing was about 
to appear, but he was not altogether pre- 
pared for that which presently emerged 
from the grove and passed along the little 
road not a rod from him. 

" Git erlong yar, I toF yo' ! " continued 
the resonant voice. " 'Fo' de Lor', I jest 
erbout cut yo' all ter pieces wid dis yar 
whorp fust ting yo' knows ! W'a' yo' 
be'n ter all dis time, anyhow? Yo' look 
poorty now, don' yo' } S'pose I 's gwine 
let yo' go er-feeshin' eber' day, does yo' ? " 



A RACE ROMANCE 163 

Peevy noticed that a bluejay in a thorn- 
bush just beyond the road was preparing 
to fly away, and by this sign he knew that 
the men would soon appear. 

" Wat I feed yo' fer, an' w'at I furnish 
yo' dem dar clo's fer, 'ceptin' yo' gwine ter 
wo'k fer me? Who yo' b'long ter any- 
how ; tell me dat, won't you ? Yo' eats 
more 'n ary two peegs an' fo' mules, an' 'en 
yo' jes' don' want ter wo'k one libin' lick. 
Bet I 's gwine ter mek yo' fink yo' hide 
done made out'n red pepper an' smartin'- 
weeds 'fo' I 's got done wid yo' ! Walk 
'long libely." 

Certain sharp sounds, as if from heavy 
blows laid on with a long limber stick 
or rod, emphasized these vocal perform- 
ances. Peevy felt a strange thrill run 
through his nerves. The bluejay sud- 
denly left its thorn-bush and flew away 
like a shimmering blue streak through the 
light mountain air. 

" Lif dem foots libely ; lif 'em mo' 'an 



l64 A RACE ROMANCE 

libely ! Git erp an' waddle, blame yo' ol' 
hide, er I jest p'intedly '11 frail de whole 
laigs off' n yo' clean up ter yo' gallusses ! 
Lif dem foots, I says, er I gwine raise 'em 
fer yo' wid dis yar hick'ry, see 'f I don't ! " 

The first figure that broke from the 
dusky cover of the wood was the form of a 
small, lean old man, whose thin, white 
locks were laid in sleek strands across a 
bald spot on his head, and whose high 
forehead was wrinkled into a network of 
most appealing worry and fright. He 
wore no hat, but in one hand he carried 
a dilapidated bell-crowned straw tile, while 
in the other, tightly clutched, rested a long 
cane fishing-rod, from which dangled a 
short, much tangled line, and his counte- 
nance, drawn, shrunken, and pathetic, ex- 
pressed with more power than any form of 
words could the dread he felt of the 
storming negro behind him. 

" I 's gwine ter mek de dus' rise out'n yo' 
gyarments tell yo' fink some pusson done 



A RACE ROMANCE 165 

built er fire under 'em an' dey 's smokin' 
like er tah kiln ! " 

Along with this gush of vehement rage 
out came Rory in close pursuit of the 
panting white man, whom Peevy now rec- 
ognized as Wiley Brimson. 

The negro bore in his hand a long, flex- 
ible hickory gad, the end of which was 
much frayed from the effect of rapid blows 
delivered with it on the ground close to 
the heels of his scudding victim. The 
pursuer was in a state of such concen- 
trated earnestness of purpose that he 
looked neither to the right nor to the left, 
but held his massive shoulders very high, 
at the same time thrusting his head forward 
and downward. The tuft of grizzled woolly 
beard on his chin was flecked with the 
foam of his strenuous scolding.- His strides 
were melodramatic in their length and 
swing, while the collapsed brim of his old 
hat flapped energetically to the motion of 
his muscular body. 



l66 A RACE ROMANCE 

Something poetically savage, like a sug- 
gestion from Homer, or like a thought 
half-expressed by some ancient, rude in- 
scription, beamed from that corrugated 
African face. Browning might have set 
such a sketch in verse ; Giotto could have 
fixed it on a panel. Even Peevy was 
aware of its significance, as the white man, 
passing him, flung out towards him a 
quick, appealing, despairing glance. 

" Keep yo' nose straight afore yo', er I 's 
gwine ter wa'm yo' laigs tell yo' feels lak 
yo' 's er-wadin' in b'ilin' tah up ter yo' 
wais', wid er red-hot eel er-floppin' roun' 
yo' blame spindlin' shanks ! Git erlong, I 
toleyo'!" 

An indescribable expression came into 
Peevy's face as he watched this strange pro- 
cession go by in the direction of Sassafras 
Pocket and disappear amid the low-hang- 
ing sprays of the wood. The voice came 
bellowing back from time to time, gradu- 
ally modified by distance and intervening 



A RACE ROMANCE 167 

objects, until, at last, mellow and far, it had 
something of lyric softness in its notes. 

" Hate ter be erbleeged ter frail de pelt 
clean off'n yo', Brimson, an' hab yo' gwine 
roun' yer like er fresh-skinned possum ; 
but ef yo' will run erway, w'y, I s'pose I 's 
got ter let yo' hab it in yarnest. Hustle 
erlong yah, I tole yo'! I cayn't stan' no 
foolin' ! " 

The strokes of the gad upon the ground, 
given with rhythmical regularity, made a 
sort of rude counterpoint which added a 
singular effect to the now but faintly echo- 
ing strains. 

Presently silence closed in and was not 
broken till the bluejay came chattering 
back to its thorn-bush, where it shone like 
a gem amid the tender green sprays. 

Peevy drew a deep breath and began to 
chuckle reflectively as he rubbed the long, 
heavy barrel of his gun with his sleeve. 

" Jest 'zac'ly as I 'spected," he said to 
himself, pausing to puff out his gaunt. 



l68 A RACE ROMANCE 

thinly bearded cheeks; *' thet thar nigger 
hev finally tuk the hint ! " He shook his 
head and shut one eye. " S'pose hit 's 
edication er workin' out ! " 

Once more Rory's voice, favored by a 
gentle current of wind, came distinctly 
back to him. 

" Now yo' jes' grab dat hoe poorty libely, 
ole feller, an' git inter dat co'n patch mighty 
sudden, er I 's gwine ter 'bout finish yo' 
erp. Drap dat fish-pole, I tole yo' ! Drap 
it, I says!" 

Peevy arose and shouldered his gun 
preparatory to making further and more 
diligent search for the brindle cow. As 
he walked away he continued to chuckle 
at intervals in that dry manner known to 
mountaineers. 

" Hit don't take quite alius ter edicate 
er nigger ; hit air mos'ly er matter o' stick- 
in' ter it, as Brimson hev — Thar 's that 
thar dern cow, now ! " 



A DUSKY GENIUS 

The founder of a school of thought, the 
originator of a new strain in art, or the 
discoverer in the domain of science — any 
one of these is a tempting subject for an 
essay ; but I hesitate to begin, although I 
feel sure of the unusual interest that the 
story of Rack Dillard's life and labors must 
command. Were it possible to set the 
man before the world, to be flesh and blood, 
not even the most cunning art could add 
to the effect, for Rack Dillard was a genius 
of no doubtful quality, as a few of the 
world's keenest intellects have already 
found out. 

He was a black negro slave, illiterate of 
course, or nearly so ; a lover of tobacco ; a 
Baptist in faith, and yet somewhat given 
to the use of profane language. Presently 



I70 A DUSKY GENIUS 

you shall see that he was the general type 
of his race, — a personal forecast of the 
influence to be exerted by slavery upon the 
civilization which was to follow in the wake 
of freedom. His genius was but a slender 
strain, it is true, and the results of his labors 
appear slight ; but we must keep our stand- 
ard just while we measure. He was a 
slave throughout the flower of his life, 
drawing not one breath of absolute liberty 
before he was seventy years old, unable to 
read or write until after he was seventy- 
six, and quite ignorant of the simplest ele- 
ments of mathematics even when he died 
in triumph at the ripe old age of eighty- 
three. And yet he occupies a high place, 
despite the extreme restrictions and rigid 
limitations of his life. You will note that 
I say a high place now, for his elevation, 
as has been the case too often with genius, 
was not reached until after his death, which 
took place in 1872, at his humble little 
home in Rabun County, Georgia. Pilgrim 



A DUSKY GENIUS 171 

devotees of the new school in art, enthusi- 
astic followers of the latest form of science, 
are beginning to make Rack Dillard's 
grave a shrine ; and the man who owns 
the rude cabin where this remarkable ne- 
gro lived and worked so long is making a 
handsome income by demanding of every 
visitor a small fee, for the privilege of en- 
tering. 

Last spring, returning from a sojourn at 
Bay Saint Louis, I bent my course so as 
to spend a week in the region made classic 
by Lanier, — the high hill country through 
whose valleys and gorges flow, with here 
a purple pool and there a foaming cata- 
ract, the two most beautiful rivers in the 
world, the Tallulah and the Ulufta. It 
was not to verify Lanier's musical descrip- 
tion, however, that I went up through the 
valleys of Hall into the heart of the Blue 
Ridge. The tender jingle of the poet's 
rhymes may have been in my ears, — 
doubtless it was, — but my thoughts were 



1/2 A DUSKY GENIUS 

busy with the revolution that Rack Dil- 
lard had wrought in a certain domain of 
art and with the effect he had upon one of 
the greatest forces in our civilization. I 
felt the picturesqueness, and, if I may say 
it, the fitness of the sketch I might make 
out of the materials of the old negro's life. 
It seemed to me that the world had not 
done its duty by him, and that his influ- 
ence, while it had been made the most of 
by a few enthusiasts, had not been properly 
acknowledged in a public way. It is true, 
as I have said, that certain zealous and 
highly enlightened men and women, mostly 
Southerners, to their credit be it said, have 
formed a quiet but efficient society devoted 
to the study of Dillard's, or, as it is usually 
called, Rack's philosophy, and some of the 
members make pilgrimages to Rack's grave; 
still the world has been kept in ignorance 
of him for whom the cult exists and by 
whom the school was founded. 

The mountains of Rabun County are, I 



A DUSKY GENIUS 173 

believe, the cerebral part of the great Blue 
Ridge, the vertebral column, the culmi- 
nation, the flower of what is, perhaps, the 
most interesting chain of upheaval in 
America. The region is an extremely dry, 
isolated, and lonely one, with every ele- 
ment in its air, its quietude, and its stabil- 
ity of conditions to make it a congenial 
habitat for Philosophy. Naturally it 
would be hard for news to escape from 
such a place, and, besides, mountain peo- 
ple are uncommunicative to an exasper- 
ating degree. 

That Rack Dillard, the first man of 
science (both chronologically and in point 
of eminence) given by the negro race of 
America — that this preeminent, though 
illiterate, savant should have spent his 
whole length of days in the foothills by 
the rocky banks of the Ulufta, a slave most 
of the time, — for more than threescore 
and ten years as I have said, — is a ro- 
mance which grips the imagination more 



174 A DUSKY GENIUS 

engagingly than can any story of trouba- 
dour or any chronicle of the age of heroes 
and gods. 

Dillard's cabin, kept now by a shrewd 
Yankee for gain, is reached by a narrow 
clay road, slipping away from the pretty 
mountain village of Clayton and winding 
its course like a brick-red serpent through 
a dry, rugged, often picturesque country. 
As one advances, the character of the 
landscape assumes that composite quality 
so attractive to the artist and the geologist. 
The road, slowly shrinks, as a river that 
loses itself in sand, and at last becomes a 
mere shadowy path, leaf-strewn and bough- 
shaded, drawn through the stony, brushy, 
silent hills to the foot of the mountain 
known locally by the appropriate but not 
over-euphonious name of the Hog Back. 

For some distance before reaching the 
Dillard cabin, or, as it is better known, 
Rack's house, one follows the course of the 
beautiful Ulufta, with the bubbling water 



A DUSKY GENIUS 175 

on one side of him and the tumbling, dis- 
torted, and rock-pierced foothills on the 
other. If he is a sportsman and has 
brought his tackle with him, here are pools 
and swirls whereon he shall not cast a fly- 
in vain, since every stone in the stream 
has a shadow in which lurks a bass. The 
man of science will find much to study on 
every hand, and the artist could not ask 
for a more varied and fascinating field for 
his sketch-book and pencil. As for my- 
self, somewhat given to the practices of 
the sportsman, the artist, and the votary of 
science, all in turn, not a step of the way 
failed to interest me vividly. Looking 
back at it now, the little journey fills me 
with a sense of the picturesque and the ro- 
mantic, touched with a dry, arid, preserva- 
tive quality quite indescribable, yet distinct. 
The huge fragmentary rocks with their 
sear gray lichens worn, like faded rosettes, 
upon their imperishable breasts ; the trees, 
now stunted, now very tall, as the soil 



176 A DUSKY GENIUS 

varied or the species alternated, touched 
with green and yellowish mosses near the 
ground ; the sound of the breeze overhead, 
and the murmur of the river here or a 
spring-stream there ; the fragrance of open- 
ing buds and springing spathes ; the 
voices of birds, many of them migrants, 
like myself, dallying for a day or two — 
all these, with glimpses of high precipices 
and far blue peaks, the whole overarched 
with a tender, almost violet sky, linger 
with me, as vague as a dream, as real as 
the furniture in my study, making up one 
of the most striking and perpetually differ- 
entiated impressions set in my memory. 

When at last one turns aside from what 
by courtesy is the main road, he approaches 
Dillard's cabin from the west, the gravelly 
bed of a bright brooklet serving as guide. 
The structure appears to lean for support 
against the face of a perpendicular cliff 
whose fringe of cedars, stunted and gnarled, 
overtops the decaying and mossy roof that 



A DUSKY GENIUS 1/7 

slants forward so as to cover a rude porch 
or veranda in front, near which stands the 
stump of an old mulberry-tree. Thanks 
to the keen business sense of the Yankee, 
the place has been kept just as Rack left 
it, with all its furniture and belongings 
intact. 

From the cabin door a well-worn path 
curves round the corner of the escarpment 
and turns over the hill-spur to the much 
more pretentious dwelling formerly owned 
and occupied by Rack's master, Judge 
Spivey Dillard, a somewhat eccentric man,^ 
who during the latter part of his life de- 
voted all his time in a way to biological 
investigations and to reading the works of 
Darwin, Owen, Macgillivray, and Alfred 
Wallace. He was a bachelor, living alone, 
surrounded with such luxury as he cared 
for, leaving to his slaves the management 
of a valuable plantation in bottom lands of 
the Ulufta River. 

Rack was about sixty years old when 



178 A DUSKY GENIUS 

his master retired him from active field 
work and permitted him to assume the 
lighter duties of a house servant — a man 
of chores, to come from his cabin at any 
moment, day or night, rain or shine, when- 
ever the judge blew a blast upon a small 
tin horn kept for the purpose. 

Doubtless it was from his master, who 
as his years increased became more and 
more inclined to scientific garrulousness, 
that Rack caught the first suggestion 
which led to his singular, and under the 
circumstances successful, career in a slen- 
der but interesting course of science and 
art. 

The earliest intimation of the negro's 
work in his chosen line came to the judge 
one day when he blew his horn and for 
the first time Rack failed to answer the 
summons. A second blast had no better 
effect, and a third echoed away through 
the woods without response. Judge Dil- 
lard felt sure that his faithful servant had 




JUDGE DILLARD 



A DUSKY GENIUS 1/9 

met with some ill, and acting upon the 
moment's impulse, hastened over to Rack's 
cabin, where he found the old fellow in a 
rapt state, seated on his sheepskin stool 
under the then flourishing mulberry-tree. 
The judge thought that Rack was asleep ; 
the suggestion engendered rage. 

"Rack, what do you mean here, you 
lazy old lubber you ? I '11 wear you as 
thin as a hand-saw in half a minute ! " he 
exclaimed, rushing upon the negro and 
shaking him till he fairly rattled. 

Rack bounced up and drew in a deep, 
gasping breath. 

" Why did n't you answer that horn, you 
old vagabond ? " continued the judge, giv- 
ing Rack two or three resounding cuffs. 
" Tell me, or I '11 mash every ultimate 
molecule in the tissues of your body!" 

Rack dodged, grunted, and gasped again, 
getting his breath as a man who comes out 
of a plunge in cold water. 

" Lost your tongue, have you? " the judge 



l8o A DUSKY GENIUS 

went on, still cuffing vigorously. " I '11 
stir up your nerve-cells and jar your gan- 
glions into activity ; I '11 knock all your 
foramens into one ; I '11 make magma of 
you ; I '11 reduce you to protoplasmic 
pulp ! " 

The negro soon got himself together, 
and tore away from his master's grasp. 
His voice came to him at the same time, 
and it was no child's voice. 

" Stop dat ! stop dat ! " he exclaimed, 
dodging meantime sundry blows and kicks. 
" Yo' don' know w'at yo' doin', Mars' Spi- 
vey ; 'fo' de Lor', yo' don' ! " 

But the judge did not stop until quite 
out of breath and otherwise exhausted. 
He had managed to hurt himself much 
more than he had punished the negro, and 
now, panting and glaring, he sank upon 
the stool, his grizzled beard quivering and 
his hat awry. 

" I 's pow'ful s'prise at yo', Mars' Spivey ; 
'fo' Gor, I is," Rack remarked, wiping the 



A DUSKY GENIUS l8l 

perspiration from his face with his sleeve, 
while, with his feet apart, he squared him- 
self in front of the judge. " Wen yo' bus' 
in on dat ca'c'lation o' mine, yo' jes' eber- 
lastin' did play de bery debil wid er 'ves- 
tigation ob science, I tell yo'." 

Judge Dillard's fiery eyes, still bent upon 
his servant's face, shot forth a queer gleam 
as Rack uttered the word " science." Prob- 
ably if he had not been so very blown and 
tired he would have renewed his assault 
and battery, but the sheepskin stool, with 
its deep, soft fleece, was a restful seat. 

" Wen yo' begin yo' wo'k onto me jes' 
now," Rack went on, " er-thumpin' me ober 
de head, an' er-whangin' me in de face an' 
eyes, an' er-jerkin' de bery liver and lights 
out'n me, I 's jes' at dat time ready ter 
re'ch fo' a 'elusion in biorology, an' yo' 
knock it plumb frough me an' stomp it 
inter de ye'th." 

By this time the judge had recollected 
what it was that he wanted of Rack. 



I82 A DUSKY GENIUS 

" You just biology off to the stable, and 
take Bald Eagle " — that was his saddle- 
horse — " over to the blacksmith's shop 
and have his shoes reset, and. Rack, the 
very next time that you go to sleep and 
don't hear my horn I '11 take you down 
country and sell you, see if I don't ! " He 
delivered this order, set with the sting of 
the most terrible threat known to an up- 
country slave, in a tone which made Rack's 
soul shiver. The negro stood not on the 
manner of his going, but went forthwith to 
do the task assigned him. 

Judge Dillard remained on the soft stool, 
and, leaning his head against the cool bark 
of the mulberry-tree, gazed idly up into the 
thick, dark foliage, now splashed with the 
soft purple of ripening berries. His recent 
exertion and excitement had left him quite 
averse to further physical or mental effort ; 
indeed, the reaction gradually engendered 
in him that dreamy, misty mood which in 
its soothing restfulness is next to sleep. 



A DUSKY GENIUS 183 

A woodpecker, with a black jacket and a 
scarlet head, came and alighted on a cor- 
ner of the cabin roof where a course pro- 
jected. It eyed the judge a moment, then 
beat a fine rolling tattoo on the resonant 
end of a warped board. The sound was a 
peculiar one, double in its nature, the sec- 
ond or undertone being a strange, vibrant 
strain, sweet as the softest note of flute or 
violin. The judge's ears were in just the 
most receptive condition ; the vague, sweet 
ringing chord flowed in and spread through- 
out his senses. A mocking-bird had been 
flitting about in the mulberry-tree over- 
head, and the judge noticed that it had 
the peculiar habit of fetching mulberries 
to a certain point on a stout bough, where 
it thrust them into a small pit or knot-hole, 
and, after churning them for a little while 
with its beak, drank their rich subacid 
juice. 

To the half-dreaming man of science ob- 
servations of this nature were distantly sug- 



I84 A DUSKY GENIUS 

gestive. His lips moved, and he murmured, 
" Strange that while the harsh-voiced mela- 
nerpes erythrocephalus is drawing aboriginal 
music from a fragment of pinus mitis, the 
silver-tongued mimus polyglottus is content 
to make cider from the insipid fruit of morus 
rubra'' At the sound of his words both 
birds flew away as if terribly frightened. 

The judge was a good-hearted man, 
though rather hasty-tempered, and when 
his calmer mind began to contemplate the 
treatment given Rack a while ago, a twinge 
of remorse shot through it. He recalled, 
with a vague sense of its extreme novelty, 
the fact that Rack had claimed, and with 
intense seriousness, that his lapse from 
duty had been owing to complete absorp- 
tion in a scientific investigation. The 
judge chuckled heartily, then became 
grave, as the phases of the situation passed 
from ludicrous to pathetic. What if, after 
all, a negro could comprehend and follow 
the golden threads of biological study .f* 



A DUSKY GENIUS 185 

What if he, Judge Spivey Dillard, jurist 
and scientist, had thumped and cuffed and 
pounded a man, black though he was and 
born slave, just at the moment when a 
mystery of life was beginning to make it- 
self comprehensible to his understanding ? 
The thought was heavy with suggestions 
over which the judge pondered deep and 
long ; then he slept, leaning heavily against 
the tree, while the dry mountain air fanned 
his furrowed face and shook the grizzled 
beard that fringed his lank jaws and pro- 
truding chin. Through his slumber fell 
the sweet bouquet of the luscious berries 
and the tender rustle of the broad leaves. 
The woodpecker returned again and again 
to sound a bar or two of his queer music 
on the old warped board, and the mock- 
ing-bird ventured back to the little pit 
wherein he churned his mulberries and 
made his fragrant wine. 

Judge Dillard awoke just as Rack came 
shuffling down the path, returning from 



l86 A DUSKY GENIUS 

doing his errand. The old gentleman 
heard the familiar footfalls, rubbed his 
eyes, yawned, and stretched himself. Rack, 
lifting both hands and expanding his eyes 
dramatically, exclaimed : — 

"Well, 'fo' de Lor', Mars' Spivey! yo' 
loungin' roun' yer yit ? Wha' gwine hap- 
pen nex', I wonder ? Been 'sleep all dis 
time?" 

The judge yawned again, but he was 
eyeing Rack keenly, as if to look through 
and through him. The old slave noted 
this with misgiving, secretly fearing, in- 
deed, that something was going to be said 
on the subject of a hand of fine leaf to- 
bacco that he had surreptitiously ab- 
stracted from his master's store not long 
since ; but the judge merely remarked that 
he had been feeling a trifle drowsy, and 
then added : — 

" Sit down there. Rack," indicating a 
corner of the porch-floor. " I want to in- 
terrogate you touching biology." 



A DUSKY GENIUS 187 

It would be tedious and quite uninstruc- 
tive to insert here the long dialogue that 
ensued between the judge and his slave. 
The almost unpronounceable words, the 
Greek and Latin phrases, and the Dar- 
winian quotations indulged in by the white 
man, were thoroughly equilibrated by the 
savage interpretation of them rendered by 
the negro. To say that Rack reveled in 
the conversation would be but a shadowy 
expression of the truth. Indeed, his enjoy- 
ment was ecstatic, even excruciating, as 
was proved by his bodily writhing and his 
facial contortions. For how many long 
years had he been furtively catching de- 
tached bits of his master's learning, grow- 
ing hungrier and thirstier day by day for 
the full draught he was now taking in! 
Every precious word of the jargon of 
science caught by his ears had been held 
in the tenacious grip of memory. He had 
crooned over them in the depth of the 
night ; he had sung them in the field ; he 



l88 A DUSKY GENIUS 

had conned them while hunting the fa- 
mous 'possum of the Ulufta valley, until 
they had entered into the innermost fibres 
of his life, so to speak, and been assimi- 
lated perfectly without being in the least 
digested. 

Nor was Judge Spivey Dillard less 
charmed than his slave with the occasion 
current. He came near forgetting to ask 
Rack for further explanation of the alleged 
investigation which had led to the recent 
encounter ; but he caught himself just in 
time. Rack was ready, nay eager to en- 
lighten his master. 

" Well, sah, Mars' Spivey," he began, 
crossing his index fingers in front of him, 
" dat wa' er ques'ion ob de general aberage 
ob ci'cumstances ; or, speakin' mo' plainer, 
it wa' jes' dis : what air de biorology ob de 
singin'-boa'd, an' er mockin'-bird 'at feeds 
er mu'berry limb, an' er' possum w'at go 
out, jes' like er can'le w'en yo' blow it?" 

The judge, more from long habit than 



A DUSKY GENIUS 189 

from any desire to have this apparently 
absurd proposition simplified, straightened 
himself up a little, and said : — 

" Repeat that statement, Rack." 

" Ce'tainly, sah, ce'tainly ; I gwine mek 
it reas'n'ble ter yo' gum'tion, 'mejetly, sah," 
responded the negro, lifting one forefinger 
and tapping the other with it. 

" It 's dis here way : dey 's er dry old 
boa'd 'at kin sing er chune ; dey 's er 
mockin'-bird w'at feeds er mu'berry limb; 
an' dey 's er wollopin' great big old 'pos- 
sum 'at kin jes fade right out an' tu'n hese'f 
inter nothin' w'ile yo' 's er-lookin' at 'im. 
Dat 's w'at I done been er-'vestigatin' w'en 
yo' try ter tah me all ter pieces dis mo'nin' ; 
an' jes as yo' light outer me I was er-j'in- 
in' dem fac's tergedder an' jes' er-re'chin' 
out fo' de aberage ob 'im. Mighty sorry 
yo' do dat, Mars' Spivey ; it gwine ter be 
er great loss ter biorology, sah, sho 's yo' 
bo'n, sah." 

The judge was disgusted in one sense, 



190 A DUSKY GENIUS 

and in another he was, strange to say, 
deeply interested. He was curious to 
know just what Rack meant by a singing- 
board, a mocking-bird that fed a mul- 
berry limb, and a 'possum that could ren- 
der itself invisible at will. Pursuing this 
curiosity, he catechized the negro after 
the artful manner of a lawyer to the busi- 
ness born. Rack was slow to give up his 
secret, but, bit by bit, the judge drew out 
the whole of it. The singing-board was 
the one in the cabin's roof upon which 
the woodpecker beat its long roll in the 
morning. The under-hum of that sono- 
rous piece of wood was still softly rever- 
berating in the judge's ears. The mock- 
ing-bird that fed the limb was the one that 
the judge himself had seen churning mul- 
berries to pulp in the opening on the 
bough overhead ; but the 'possum that 
could fade out and disappear had been met 
by no man save Rack. And what a 'pos- 
sum it was ! — as large as a six-months- 



A DUSKY GENIUS I9I 

old pig, with a tail quite a yard long, and 
a nose that turned up almost at right an- 
gles. Time and again Rack had come 
upon this magnificent animal down in the 
Ulufta bottoms, where the timber was 
thick and heavy ; but he could by no art 
known to the 'possum-hunter capture it, 
for the reason that it invariably faded away 
to nothing, as ghosts are said to do, leav- 
ing only a faint, wan light flickering for a 
moment where it had been. 

Somehow when Rack, in his simple 
dialect, related how for more than twenty 
years he had lain in his lowly bed of morn- 
ings listening to the strange, sweet vibra- 
tions of that singing-board ; and how for 
the same period, during every year's mul- 
berry season, he had watched the mocking- 
bird stuff the fruit into the hole in that 
limb ; and, more than all, how for a score 
of autumns and winters he had used every 
means at command to capture that won- 
derful 'possum, it got the judge's imagina- 



192 A DUSKY GENIUS 

tion aroused and set his memory to work. 
His long-lost youth brought up a host of 
experiences left fifty years behind, and 
among them hunting the 'possum was per- 
haps the raciest and most barbaric. Those 
were the days when a persimmon had ex- 
quisite flavor, and when muscadines were 
better than any garden- grape. For a 
while he tasted over again the far-away 
sweets of boyhood; smelt the keen fra- 
grance ; saw the gay colors ; heard the 
ravishing sounds ; felt the thrill of vigor- 
ous, buoyant, untainted life. Elusive, pun- 
gent reminiscences came in and wandered 
through his mind like bees through an old 
weed-grown flower-bed. 

"Yes, sah, yo' busted up er powerfu' 
close ca'c'lation by yo' onreson'ble savage- 
rousness dis mo'nin', Mars' Spivey," in- 
sisted Rack, shaking his head dolefully, 
and ending with a long, deep sigh of re- 
gret. " Yo' onj'inted my 'magination." 

This touched the judge, for at the mo- 



A DUSKY GENIUS 193 

ment he was fixing one of those shadowy 
half-remembrances. Surely it was so — 
yes, it was so — he vaguely recollected — 
yes, once, long years ago, an opossum had 
disappeared mysteriously right before his 
eyes. The animal was at the time hang- 
ing by its tail to the low, full-fruited bough 
of a persimmon-tree ; he approached it 
with a club, when, lo ! it faded away and 
was gone. Now he described the incident 
to Rack, who received it with delight, and 
from that day forward the two men dis- 
cussed at intervals the possibility of a mar- 
supial's having the power of self-elimina- 
tion under great stress of danger. For 
some time the negro was chiefly a listener, 
while his master, seated in a deep chair on 
the stoop of the mansion, dilated with 
much show of learning upon the isolated 
position of the opossum family in the ani- 
mal kingdom. The judge had a theory of 
his own, to the effect that a 'possum repre- 
sented humor of a more or less comic sort, 



194 A DUSKY GENIUS 

and he explained to Rack that it was the 
'possum-eating habit among the negroes of 
the South which had given them their 
sense of barbaric comedy and their love of 
humorous music. 

" It is nothing in the world but 'possum- 
fat," said he, " that has made such idiots of 
you niggers. It makes your heads wag, 
and your hands pat, and your feet dance ; 
it makes you laugh at everything, and act 
the fool generally. In short, Rack, 'pos- 
sum-fat is the essential oil of tomfoolery 
and buffoonery and absurd comicality." 

But Rack was longing for a scientific 
explanation of the singing-board and the 
limb-feeding mocking-bird. 

" But there is no correlation between 
these simple things and the opossum ques- 
tion, — no correlation whatever. Rack," the 
judge explained. 

" But I say dey is," asserted Rack, with 
a vehemence that fairly startled his mas- 
ter. " Dey is er corroliation, so dey is, an' 



A DUSKY GENIUS 195 

dat jes' w'a' I gwine show yo' w'en yo' try 
ter tab me up." 

" Rack, I say that there is no correlation 
whatever," repHed the judge. 

" Dey is — dey is, I tell yo'," retorted 
Rack. 

The judge reached for his cane, and the 
negro bolted away, as if shot from a war- 
wolf, his big flat feet pounding the path 
with rapid and resounding strokes until 
the cabin was reached. 

Rack's memory was remarkable. He 
kept in mind the 'possum theory advanced 
by his master, and it grew upon him day 
by day, apropos of which he went about 
singing the old quatrain : — 

" W'en de ole 'possum gwine ter run, 
His hide jes' nat'ly bu'st wid fun ; 
Ef nigger knock 'im on de head, 
He still keep grinnin' w'en he dead ! " 

Many times the same question arose as 
to the possibility of a correlation between 
the singing-board, the mocking-bird that 



196 A DUSKY GENIUS 

fed the mulberry limb, and the opossum 
that could disappear at will ; but the 
disagreement of master and slave was, it 
appeared, unsurmountable. The judge 
finally formulated his proposition thus : 
" There cannot possibly exist any correla- 
tion whatever between a self-eliminating 
didelphys virginiana^ a berry-eating mimus 
polyglottus, and a dry fragment of pinus 
mitis struck by the mandibles of melaner- 
pes erythrocephalusr 

Rack was staggered, but he shook his 
head doggedly, and responded with exas- 
perating brevity, " I say dey is." 

From the very nature of things it came 
to pass that this problem in science occu- 
pied every moment of Rack's gradually 
increasing leisure. To solve it, and so tri- 
umph over his master, would be a crowning 
glory. The nebulous beginning of a solu- 
tion was, in fact, forming itself like a milky 
way across his mind. The judge himself 
was so keenly pleased with his old slave's 



A DUSKY GENIUS 197 

mysterious ambition that he almost wished 
him to succeed, even if it should appear 
thereby that color had won precisely at the 
point where color always had been sup- 
posed to be weakest. Rack's enthusiasm 
and zeal were tempered all the time with 
such grotesque and comical humor, and 
accompanied with facial contortions so ex- 
pressive of savage wisdom, that a kind of 
infection exhaled therefrom and insinuated 
itself into the judge's imagination. 

As time flew on — and how it does fly 
as the evening of life draws toward night ! 
— Rack, while growing more and more 
confident of success, became very reticent 
as to the progress of his investigations. 
Finally the judge discovered that some- 
thing of a secret nature was in progress 
down at the cabin. He questioned Rack 
on the subject, but received no satisfaction, 
and when he threatened and menaced the 
old fellow he was reminded that a most in- 
opportune assault once before had delayed 
the great investigation. 



198 A DUSKY GENIUS 

" Cou'se you kin jump on ter me an' 
w'ar me out, Mars' Spivey," said he dole- 
fully and with a lugubrious twist of his 
strong African face, " but ef yo' does it 's 
gwine set biorology back jes' fifteen yeahs 
an' fo' days mo', sho 's you 's borned. Mars' 
Spivey, dat 's w'at it 's er-gwine ter do. 
Jes' fifteen yeahs an' fo' days mo'." 

" But, Rack, what upon earth is your 
objection to telling me ? " demanded the 
judge, with querulous and helpless insist- 
ence. 

Rack looked sidewise at his master, with 
a suspicious and over-cunning leer in his 
milky old eyes. 

" Da' now, Mars' Spivey," he said, chuc- 
kling in a low falsetto, — " da' now, yo' 
know jes' es well es I does dat it not gwine 
ter do fo' one scientist ter tell 'nodder 
scientist any ob his disciberies afo' he git 
'em fastened solid in he mind, er he steal 
'em, sho 's yo' borned. Don't yo' ricomem- 
ber w'en yo' read ter me in de book 'bout 



A DUSKY GENIUS 199 

seberal 'markable ins'ances ob dat sort er 
misplaced co'fidence ? Ya', sah, yo' did, 
Mars' Spivey. Now den, yo' 's er scien- 
tist, ain't yo'? Well, I is too, an' I jes' 
know mighty well what yo' 'd do. Yo' 'd 
steal my discibery, an' jes' tu'n roun' an' 
sw'ar 'at it 's yo'n ! No, sah, Mars' Spivey, 
yo' don' come dat game. I 's not quite er 
eejit yit ! " 

Rack had his way, and the judge was 
both tantalized and delighted, while the 
days flew by like birds before a storm. 

Year followed year, bringing no notable 
change in the dry, stony mountain land- 
scape. The dessicative influence of the 
climate preserved things in statu quo. At 
length the great war came on ; it rolled its 
heavy echoes over the blue peaks to the 
north and west of them, but neither master 
nor slave heeded them much ; for the tie 
that bound these two old men together 
was stronger than the proclamation of a 
President or any amendment to the Amer- 



200 A DUSKY GENIUS 

ican Constitution. They became more 
and more attached to each other, the ne- 
gro in the latter years gradually assuming 
the stronger part, while the judge, whose 
mind and body, weakening together, ap- 
peared to be slowly drying up, gave most 
of his time to watching the tedious pro- 
gress of Rack's investigation. 

It was one fine morning in December, 
1865. The previous night had been a 
clear, sharp, frosty one, crisping the late 
greenery of the sturdy mountain oaks and 
making mellow and luscious the persim- 
mons of the Ulufta valley. The judge 
was on his veranda, smoking his pipe in 
the sunshine, and enjoying the soft color 
show set against the steep slope of the 
Hog Back, when Rack shambled up the 
steps and began dancing on the floor, his 
heavy shoes making a mighty racket. 

" I 's got ter de eend ! I 's got to de 
eend ! " he sang out. " I done 'sciber de 
corroliation ob de boa'd an' de mocking- 



A DUSKY GENIUS 201 

bird an' de 'possum, an' I done settle de 
'vestigation, Mars' Spivey ; ef I hain't den 
de debil 's er co'n dodger ! " 

Before the judge could recover from the 
surprise of the occasion, Rack changed 
the step of his dance to a fluttering and 
rattling double-shuffle as an accompani- 
ment in counterpoint to the following 
snatch of song : — 

" De mockin'-bird fink it smart o' him 
Wen he hide he music in de limb ! 
Oh, ya, ya, ya ! 

An' er wha, wha, wha ! 
Wen he stuflf he chunes all in de limb ! 

** Dat pine boa'd sing till it wa'p right roun*, 
An' ebery day it ketch mo' soun'. 
Oh, ya, ya, ya ! 

An' er wha, wha, wha ! 
Fo' ebery day it ketch mo' soun' ! 

" De 'possum gwine ter shed he skin, 
An' den de music will begin. 
Oh, ya, ya, ya ! 

An' er wha, wha, wha ! 
Wen dat ole 'possum shed he skin ! " ' 



202 A DUSKY GENIUS 

He ended with a high fling and a tre- 
mendous foot-stroke on the resounding 
floor. The judge remonstrated and even 
tried the old worn threats, but Rack would 
not be controlled. 

" I done cotch onter de corroliation ob 
de biorology ! " he cried exultingly, still 
skipping about. " Dat man Dahwin, he 
plumb dead-right ebery time on de bior- 
ology an' devolution. It gwine ter be er 
cla'r case ob nat'ral dejection an' de 'vival 
ob de fitified ! It gwine ter be er cla'r 
case ob devolution f'om de gin'ral ter de 
spec'fication, f'om de simple ter de con- 
found ! Free ob de simplest an' no'-count- 
est gineralist fings in de worl' gwine ter be 
devoluted inter de one confoundest special- 
est best t'ing 'at eber yo' see in all yo' bo'n 
days ! " 

Here he caught the double-shuffle again, 
and added to it what was known as the 
chicken-peck back-step. 

" I kill dat ole 'possum las' night," he 



A DUSKY GENIUS 203 

added in a calmer way, though he was 
panting heavily. " Hi ! 'fo' Gor, I jes' 
knock 'im lim'er wid er light-'ood knot, an' 
skin 'im afore he done kickin'. Bless yo' 
life, Mars' Spivey, but dat 's de bigges' 
'possum-skin dis yer chile eber see in he 
whole bo'n days. Look mos' like er calf- 
hide er-hangin' down dah on my doo'." 

A few days after this the judge was sur- 
prised to discover that Rack had climbed 
up in the mulberry-tree and cut off the 
famous limb which had been fed for so 
many fruitful summers by the mocking- 
bird. The resonant board, too, had been 
removed from the cabin's roof. 

Now came the six long years of patient 
labor by which Rack Dillard reached the 
goal of his soul's ambition. First he hung 
a section of the mulberry limb, about three 
feet long, close to the jamb of his fireplace 
to season, and then he began with a piece 
of glass scraping thinner the old warped 
board. Meantime the opossum's skin was 



204 A DUSKY GENIUS 

lying under a bed of hickory ashes, which 
sooner or later would deprive it of its hair. 

Day after day, through the seasons and 
the years, the old judge found his chief 
pleasure in sitting with his pipe in his 
mouth, watching Rack scrape and file and 
cut and carve the singing-board and the 
full-fed mulberry billet, or manipulate the 
pale, translucent hide of the opossum. 

" I '11 jes' show yo' 'bout de corroliation 
ob dem fings. Mars' Spivey," the negro 
would mutter, without lifting his bleared 
and sunken eyes. " Yo' said dey was n't 
no corroliation 'tween 'em, an' I said dey 
was. Pooty soon we see who gwine be 
right 'bout dis yer biorology question, so 
we will." 

The singing-board proved to be a singu- 
larly even-fibred piece of pine three feet 
long and four inches wide by a half-inch 
thick. For about fifty years it had lain in 
the cabin roof absorbing the warmth of the 
sun and the drying sweetness of the moun- 



A DUSKY GENIUS 205 

tain wind. Slowly its tissue had been 
granulated and rearranged under the daily, 
jarring of the woodpecker's bill, until now, 
after the scraping and polishing Rack had 
given it, the wood had an amber, waxen 
appearance, and was flexible and sonorous 
as the finest tempered steel. But the mul- 
berry billet ! Never was there another 
such a bit of color, fragrance, and fineness. 
From the gnarled little pit, in which for 
fifty years the mocking-bird had brewed 
his purple wine, the rich stain of the 
berries had spread through the wood in a 
waving, rippling flood, giving it a royal dye 
and a fruity, musty odor like the bouquet 
of old wine. 

Near the close of the six-years' period 
mentioned awhile ago, Rack, on the look- 
out for his master's daily visit, met the 
judge at the cabin door, and remarked : — 

" 'Bleeged ter say ter yo'. Mars' Spivey, 
'at yo' 's not welcome ter-day. Yo' got no 
business down yer nohow." 



206 A DUSKY GENIUS 

The judge was taken by surprise. He 
leaned on his staff and looked quizzically 
into the old negro's face. Rack did not 
relent. 

" Yo' 's not gwine inside er dat cabin 
dis day," he persisted, " 'ca'se I 's got ter 
hab de room all ter myse'f. I 's er-gittin' 
ter de corroliation w'at we been er 'sputin' 
er-bout, an' I 's jes eberlastin'ly er-knockin' 
de holy stuffin' out'n all yo' ram'fications 
on de biorology. So yo' kin jes' go back, 
honey, an' wait tell I come fo' yo'. No, 
I 's not gwine come fo' yo' nudder ; yo' 
jes' come yo' own se'f nex' Sat'd'y night. 
Yo' heah, now? Nex' Sat'd'y night I 's 
gwineter be ready fo' yo'." 

The judge turned about slowly and re- 
luctantly; leaned a moment on his cane; 
faltered when he tried to say something ; 
then trudged back to his favorite seat on 
the mansion's stoop, where he smoked and 
dozed. Recently his age had been soften- 
ing his feelings. An hysterical sentimen- 



A DUSKY GENIUS 20/ 

tality had gained upon him. Rack's re- 
fusal to confide in him had worn upon 
him day by day for years, and now he felt, 
however indefinitely, that the last straw of 
ingratitude had been heaped upon him. 
Nevertheless he waited patiently for Sat- 
urday evening to come, with but the 
slightest and vaguest sense of the olden- 
time arrogance which would have resented 
the merest suggestion of being dictated to 
by a negro. This supremacy gained over 
his lifelong master was, it seems to me, 
the highest evidence of Rack Dillard's 
genius. 

When Saturday afternoon faded at last 
into twilight, which in turn slowly soft- 
ened into a moonlight night, the judge 
began to make some preliminary move- 
ments with a view to visiting the cabin ; 
but he lingered, cane in hand and pipe in 
mouth, at the little gate before his house, 
hesitating for no particular reason. It 
was midsummer, and the dry softness of 



208 A DUSKY GENIUS 

the mountain air touched tenderly the 
dreaming, dusky leaf-masses of the woods, 
and hung misty veils on the horizon. He 
presently crept through the gate, hesitat- 
ing just outside for a while, and gazing up 
at the stars and the moon. It was his 
way of restraining his impatience, and be- 
sides he had not been quite able to forgive 
Rack. He toddled along the path, fitfully 
pausing here and there, until at last he 
turned the corner of the rock. At the 
cabin porch he stopped short and stood in 
a listening attitude, amazed at first and 
then entranced. The little house was full 
of music that rippled out through every 
opening, and tinkled away in thin rills 
along the dim paths of the woods. The 
judge remembered that in his young days 
Rack had been a musician of no mean 
ability; but for years he had had no in- 
strument to play upon. Evidently he was 
now making up for lost time ; and what 
music ! Was ever anything else so bur- 



A DUSKY GENIUS 209 

dened with pathos ? So barbaric, still so 
refined ? So brimming with virile force, 
so tender, so touching, so hilarious, so 
comic, so sweet, so true ? The old judge 
felt the hot tears gush up into his eyes, 
he knew not why. It was as if the old 
times of his boyhood had blown their 
sweets back upon him, with the laughter 
of childhood, the patter and shufHe of 
dancing feet, the songs of myriad mock- 
ing-birds, the rustle of satin leaves and 
silken wings, the bubble and bouquet of 
purple wine, the fragrance and resonance 
of all the sweet, dry, sun-seasoned wood 
that ever was wrought into violin or harp. 
He stood there crying and laughing, keep- 
ing time with his staff and wagging his 
head, now slowly, now briskly, as the 
strains varied from grave to gay. 

" Oh, de peckerwood he head er red, 
Lolly, lally, ho ! " 

came forth Rack's voice, rich and strong 
despite old age, singing to a well-timed 



210 A DUSKY GENIUS 

accompaniment and the pat, pat, pat of his 
shoe. 

" Oh, de peckerwood he head er red. 
Lolly, lally, ho ! 
An' de mockin'-bird he been stall-fed, 
Lolly, lally, ho ! 

" Oh, de 'possum am er funny t'ing, 
Lolly, lally, ho ! 
Wen he lif 'is foot fo' de pigeon-wing, 
LoUy, lally, ho ! 

" De pine boa'd set my notion gwine, 
Lolly, lally, ho ! 
An' de mulberry limb it mighty fine, 
Lolly, lally, ho ! " 

The judge could bear it no longer. He 
pushed open the door and went in. Rack 
looked up and nodded, but kept on sing- 
ing and playing, emphasizing his notes 
more than ever, if that were possible. 
Judge Dillard began to dance, and even to 
sing, as Rack changed the tune : — 

" Oh, lo'dy massy, how d' yo' feel, 
Wid de' 'possum grease down in yo' heel, 
An' yo' head all full o' turnip-pie. 
An' er big sweet 'tater in yo' eye ? " 



A DUSKY GENIUS 211 

The negro's voice ceased when the 
judge's began, but the banjo, quickening 
the new air, rang on in jolly unison. Who 
would have thought that an octogenarian 
could ever have danced like that ! 

" Wash yo' teef wid de blackin'-brush, 
Grease yo' ha'r in er pot er mush, 
Go to de dance er Sat'd'y night, 
Patrol whop yo' 'fo' daylight ! " 

The black had conquered the white. 
When the judge sank at last into a chair 
he was exhausted, panting, sweating, his 
heart beating violently. Rack keyed one 
string up a trifle, leaned a little farther 
over, and began to sing plaintively : — 

" Marster, now we 's growin' ole, 
De heads am white, de feet am cole, 
But de ole, ole age cayn't do no harm 
W'en de heart, de heart am true an' warm. 

" Marster, w'en we drop ter sleep. 
In de grabe so cool an' deep. 
Den we nebber feel de storm, 
Ef our po' ole hearts is warm." 



212 A DUSKY GENIUS 

They sat up all night long, now singing, 
now dancing, anon talking over old times on 
the Ulufta. Something in the music of that 
banjo had an intoxicating effect. Judge 
Dillard felt fifty years younger, and Rack 
found it not in the least difficult or tire- 
some to play for an hour at a time without 
a moment's rest. The exquisite odor of 
the pine wood touched the air in the room, 
and there was a distinct flavor of ripe 
mulberries straying elusively about. 

When I visited Rack's cabin I exam- 
ined with care and interest the incompara- 
ble banjo which the negro's patient genius 
had built out of the " singing-board, the 
over-fed mulberry limb, and the skin of 
the famous Ulufta 'possum," as the thrifty 
Yankee proprietor describes it. No one 
can doubt that science and art were hap- 
pily married in the making of that superb 
instrument. A glance shows that the carv- 
ing, the proportions of the parts, and the 
fine details of the finishing — from the 



A DUSKY GENIUS 2l3 

silvery, translucent skin that covers the 
head, to the rich purple of the mulberry 
neck, and the gold-colored hoop fashioned 
out of the old warped board that had sung 
so long in the cabin roof — are exquisite 
beyond description. On the under part 
of the neck is the only authentic auto- 
graph left by Rack Dillard. It is a legible 
carved inscription of four words : " Dis is 
de corroliation." 

Rack's grave is on the top of the high 
cliff above his cabin. It overlooks the 
lovely valley of the Ulufta, and commands 
a fine view of the Hog Back. To this 
high tomb of the great negro originator 
of true dialect, romance, and minstrelsy, 
have come, as pilgrims to a shrine, many 
faithful and devoted students to pay their 
respects to the founder of their school. 
Wreaths of flowers are laid tenderly on 
the mound, and in the bold escarpment of 
the rocks are cut ineffaceably some names 
beloved of all men. Among these, and 



214 A DUSKY GENIUS 

high in the Hst, I noticed with peculiar 
pleasure Joel Chandler Harris, H. S. Ed- 
wards, Thomas Nelson Page, and Irwin 
Russell, — the names of men whose stories 
and songs and sketches have made known 
to the world the tender faithful heart, 
the rich, sunny humor, and the deeper 
soul qualities of the Southern negro. I 
hesitated awhile ; then, where no one 
would be apt to see it, I scrawled my own 
signature to testify that I too had been 
there. 

Rack must have been a genius, a high 
type of his race. As in the case of every 
other genius, he foresaid or forecast the 
life that was to come after him, while at 
the same time he was the exponent of the 
past. His songs and his banjo strains 
left in the brisk, sweet air of the New 
South a lasting reminder of the old plan- 
tation days. The years he spent so pa- 
tiently in establishing a close relationship 
among his materials, and which drew to- 



A DUSKY GENIUS 215 

gether the three elements of his art, fun, 
pathos, and music, have served well the 
civilization of our time, and have added a 
distinct tint and a new flavor to life. We 
owe a great deal to Rack Dillard. Peace 
to his ashes ! 



THE BALANCE OF POWER 

" I don't hesitate to say to you that I 
regard him as but a small remove in nature 
from absolute trash, Phyllis, — absolute 
trash. His character may be good — 
doubtless it is ; but he is not of good fam- 
ily, and he shows it. What is he but a 
mountain cracker ? There is no middle 
ground ; trash is trash ! " 

Colonel Mobley Sommerton spoke in a 
rich bass voice, slowly rolling his words. 
The bagging of his trousers at the knees 
made his straight legs appear bent, as if 
for a jump at something, while his daugh- 
ter Phyllis looked at him searchingly, but 
not in the least impatiently, her fine gray 
eyes wide open, and her face, with its deli- 
cately blooming cheeks, its peach-petal 



THE BALANCE OF POWER 21/ 

lips, and its saucy little nose, all attention 
and half-indignant surprise. 

" Of course," the colonel went on, with 
a conciliatory touch in his words, when he 
had waited some time for his daughter to 
speak and she spoke not, — " of course 
you do not care a straw for him, Phyllis ; 
I know that the daughter of a Sommerton 
could n't care for such a " — 

" I don't mind saying to you that I do 
care for him, and that I love him, and want 
to marry him," broke in Phyllis, with trem- 
ulous vehemence, tears gushing from her 
eyes at the same time ; and a depth of 
touching pathos seemed to open behind 
her words, albeit they rang like so many 
notes of rank boldness in the old man's 
ears. 

" Phyllis ! " he exclaimed. Then he 
stooped a little, his trousers bagging still 
more, and he stood in an attitude almost 
stagy, a flare of choleric surprise leaping 
into his face. " Phyllis Sommerton, what 



2l8 THE BALANCE OF POWER 

do you mean ? Are you crazy ? You say 
that to me ? " 

The girl — she was just eighteen — 
faced her father with a look at once tear- 
fully saucy and lovingly firm. The sauci- 
ness, however, was superficial and physical, 
not in any degree a part of her mental 
mood. She could not, had she tried, have 
been the least bit willful or impertinent 
with her father, who had always been a 
model of tenderness. Besides, a girl never 
lived who loved a parent more unreserv- 
edly than Phyllis loved Colonel Sommer- 
ton. 

" Go to your room, miss ! go to your 
room ! Step lively at that, and let me have 
no more of this nonsense. Go ! I com- 
mand you ! " 

The stamp with which the colonel's 
rather substantial boot just then shook the 
floor seemed to generate some current of 
force sufficient to whirl Phyllis about and 
send her upstairs in an old-fashioned fit of 



THE BALANCE OF POWER 219 

hysteria. She v/as crying and talking and 
running all at the same time, her voice 
made liquid like a bird's, and yet jangling 
with mixed emotions. Down fell her wavy 
long brown hair almost to her feet, one 
rich strand trailing over the rail, as she 
mounted the steps, while the rustling of 
her muslin dress told off the springy mo- 
tion of her limbs till she disappeared in 
the gilt-papered gloom aloft, where the 
windowless hall turned at right angles 
with the stairway. 

Colonel Sommerton was smiling grimly 
by this time, and his iron-gray moustache 
quivered humorously. 

" She 's a little brick," he muttered ; " a 
chip off the old log — by zounds, she is ! 
She means business. Got the bit in her 
teeth, and fairly splitting the air ! " He 
chuckled raucously. " Let her go : she '11 
soon tire out." 

Sommerton Place, a picturesque old 
mansion, as mansions have always gone in 



220 THE BALANCE OF POWER 

north Georgia, stood in a grove of oaks 
on a hilltop overlooking a little mountain 
town, beyond which uprose a crescent of 
blue peaks against a dreamy summer sky. 
Behind the house a broad plantation rolled 
its billow-like ridges of corn and cotton. 

The colonel went out on the veranda 
and lit a cigar, after breaking two or three 
matches that he nervously scratched on a 
column. 

This was the first quarrel that he had 
ever had with Phyllis. 

Mrs. Sommerton had died when Phyl- 
lis was twelve years old, leaving the little 
girl to be brought up in a boarding-school 
in Atlanta. The widowed man did not 
marry again, and when his daughter came 
home six months before the opening of 
our story, it was natural that he should see 
nothing but loveliness in the fair, bright, 
only child of his happy wedded life, now 
ended forever. 

The reader must have taken for granted 



THE BALANCE OF POWER 221 

that the person under discussion in the 
conversation touched upon at the outset 
of this writing was a young man ; but 
Tom Banister stood for more than the 
sum of the average young man's values. 
He was what in our republic is recognized 
as a promising fellow, bright, magnetic, 
shifty, well forward in the neologies of so- 
ciety, business, and politics, a born leader 
in a small way, and as ambitious as pov- 
erty and a brimming self-esteem could 
make him. From his humble law-office 
window he had seen Phyllis pass along the 
street in the old Sommerton carriage, and 
had fallen in love as promptly as possible 
with her plump, lissome form and pretty 
face. 

He sought her acquaintance, avoided 
with cleverness a number of annoying 
barriers, assaulted her heart, and won it, 
all of which stood as mere play when com- 
pared with climbing over the pride and 
prejudice of Colonel Sommerton. For 



222 THE BALANCE OF POWER 

Banister was nobody in a social way, as 
viewed from the lofty top of the hill at 
Sommerton Place ; indeed, all of his kins- 
people were mountaineers, honest, it is 
true, but decidedly woodsy, who tilled 
stony acres in a pocket beyond the first 
blue ridge yonder. His education seemed 
good, but it had been snatched from the 
books by force, with the savage certainty of 
grip which belongs to genius. 

Colonel Sommerton, having unbounded 
confidence in Phyllis's aristocratic breed- 
ing, would not open his eyes to the atti- 
tude of the young people, until suddenly 
it came into his head that possibly the al- 
most briefless plebeian lawyer had ulterior 
designs while climbing the hill, as he was 
doing noticeably often, from town to Som- 
merton Place. But when this thought 
arrived the colonel was prompt to act. 
He called up the subject at once, and we 
have seen the close of his interview with 
Phyllis. 



THE BALANCE OF POWER 223 

Now he stood on the veranda and puffed 
his cigar with quick short draughts, as a 
man does who falters between two horns 
of a dilemma. He turned his head to one 
side, as if listening to his own thoughts, 
his tall pointed collar meantime fitting 
snugly in a crease of his furrowed jaw. 

At this moment the shambling, yet in a 
way facile footsteps of Barnaby, the spo- 
radic freedman of the household, were 
soothing. Colonel Sommerton turned his 
eyes on the comer inquiringly, almost 
eagerly. 

" Well, Barn, you 're back," he said. 

" Yah, sah ; I 's had er confab wid 'em," 
remarked the negro, seating himself on 
the top step of the veranda, and mopping 
his coal-black face with a red cotton hand- 
kerchief ; " an' hit do beat all. Niggahs 
is mos'ly eejits, w'en yo wants 'em to hab 
some sense." 

He was a huge, ill-shapen, muscular fel- 
low, old but still vigorous, and in his small 



224 THE BALANCE OF POWER 

black eyes twinkled an unsounded depth 
of shrewdness. He had been the colonel's 
slave from his young manhood to the close 
of the war ; since then he had hung around 
Ellijay what time he was not sponging a 
livelihood from Sommerton Place under 
color of doing various light turns in the 
vegetable garden, and of attending to his 
quondam master's horses. 

Barnaby was a great banjoist, a charm- 
ing song-singer, and a leader of the negroes 
round about. Lately he was gaining some 
reputation as a political boss. 

There was but one political party in the 
county (for the colored people were so few 
that they could not be called a party), 
and the only struggle for ofHce came in 
pursuit of a nomination, which was al- 
ways equivalent to election. Candidates 
were chosen at a convention or mass-meet- 
ing of the whites, and the only figure that 
the blacks were able to cut in the matter 
was by reason of a pretended rather than 



THE BALANCE OF POWER 225 

a real prejudice against them, which was 
used by the candidates (who were always 
white men) to further their electioneering 
schemes, as will presently appear. 

" Hit do beat all," Barnaby repeated, 
shaking his heavy head reflectively, and 
making a grimace both comical and hid- 
eous. " Dat young man desput sma't an' 
cunnin', sho' 's yo' bo'n he is. He done 
been foohn' wid dem niggahs a'ready." 

The reader may as well be told at once 
that if a candidate could by any means 
make the negroes support his opponent 
for the nomination it was the best card he 
could possibly play; or if he could not 
quite do this, but make it appear that the 
other fellow was not unpopular in colored 
circles, it served nearly the same turn. 

Phyllis, when she ran crying upstairs 
after the conversation with her father, went 
to her room, and fell into a chair by the 
window. So it chanced that she over- 
heard the conference between Colonel 



226 THE BALANCE OF POWER 

Sommerton and Barnaby, and long after it 
was ended she still sat there leaning on 
the window-sill. Her eyes showed a trifle 
of irritation, but the tears were all gone. 

" Why did n't Tom tell me that he was 
going to run against father ? " she in- 
quired of herself over and over. " I think 
he might have trusted me, so I do. It 's 
mean of him. And if he should beat papa ! 
Papa could n't bear that." 

She sprang to her feet and walked 
across the room, stopping on the way to 
rub her apple-bloom cheeks before a look- 
ing-glass. Vaguely enough, but insistently, 
the outline of a political plot glimmered 
in her consciousness and troubled her un- 
derstanding. Plainly, her father and Tom 
Banister were rival candidates, and just 
as plainly each was scheming to make it 
appear that the negroes were supporting 
his opponent ; but the girl's little head 
could not gather up and comprehend all 
that such a condition of things meant. 



THE BALANCE OF POWER 22/ 

She supposed that a sort of disgrace 
would attach to defeat, and she clasped 
her hands and poised her winsome body 
melodramatically when she asked herself 
which she would rather the defeat would 
fall upon, her father or Tom. She leaned 
out of the window and saw Colonel Som- 
merton walking down the road toward 
town, with his cigar elevated at an acute 
angle with his nose, his hat pulled well 
down in front, by which she knew that he 
was still excited. 

Days went by, as days will in any state 
of affairs, with just such faultless weather 
as August engenders amid the dry, cool 
hills of the old Cherokee country ; and 
Phyllis noted, by an indirect attention to 
what she had never before been interested 
in, that Colonel Sommerton was growing 
strangely confidential and familiar with 
'Barnaby. She had a distinct but remote 
impression that her father had hitherto 
never, at least never openly, shown such 



228 THE BALANCE OF POWER 

irenic solicitude in that direction, and she 
knew that his sudden peace-making with 
the old negro meant ill to her lover. She 
pondered the matter with such discrimina- 
tion and logic as her clever little brain could 
compass ; and at last she one evening called 
Barnaby to come into the garden with his 
banjo. 

The sun was going down, and the half- 
grown moon swung yellow and clear 
asrainst the violet arch of mid-heaven. 
Through the sheen a softened outline of 
the town wavered fantastically. 

Phyllis sat on a great fragment of lime- 
stone, which, embossed with curious fos- 
sils, formed the immovable centre-piece of 
the garden. 

Barnaby, at a respectful distance, crum- 
pled himself satyr-like on the ground, with 
his banjo across his knee, and gazed ex- 
pectantly aslant at the girl's sweet face. 

" Now play me my father's favorite 
song," she said. 



THE BALANCE OF POWER 229 

They heard Mrs. Wren, the house- 
keeper, opening the windows in the upper 
rooms of the mansion to let in the night 
air, which was stirring over the valley with 
a delicious mountain chill on its wings. 
All around in the trees and shrubbery the 
katydids were rasping away in immelodi- 
ous statement and denial of the ancient 
accusation. 

Barnaby demurred. He did not imagine, 
so at least he said, that Miss Phyllis would 
be pleased with the ballad that recently 
had been the colonel's chief musical de- 
light; but he must obey the young lady, 
and so, after some throat-clearing and 
string-tuning, he proceeded : — 

" I 'd rudder be er niggah 
Dan ter be er whi' man, 
Dough the whi' man considdah 
He se'f biggah ; 
But ef yo' mus' be white, w'y be hones' ef yo' can, 
An' ac' es much es poss'ble like er niggah ! 

" De colah ob yo' skin 

Hit don't constertoot no sin, 



230 THE BALANCE OF POWER 

An' yo' fambly ain't er- 

Cuttin' any figgah ; 

Min' w'at yo 's er-doin', an' do de bes' yo' kin, 

An' ac' es much es poss'ble like er niggah ! " 

The tune of this song was melody it- 
self, brimming with that unkempt, sarcas- 
tic humor which always strikes as if 
obliquely, and with a flurry of tipsy fun, 
into one's ears. 

When the performance was ended, and 
the final tinkle of the rollicking banjo 
accompaniment died away down the slope 
of Sommerton Hill, Phyllis put her plump 
chin in her hands, and, with her elbows on 
her knees, looked steadily at Barnaby. 

" Barn," she said, " is my father going to 
get the colored people to indorse Mr. Tom 
Banister ? " 

" Yas, ma'm," replied the old negro ; 
and then he caught his breath and checked 
himself in confusion. " Da-da-dat is, er — 
I spec' so — er I don' 'no', ma'm," he stam- 
mered. " 'Fo' de Lor' I's " — 



THE BALANCE OF POWER 231 

Phyllis interrupted him with an impa- 
tient laugh, but said no more. In due 
time Barnaby sang her some other ditties, 
and then she went into the house. She 
gave the negro a large coin, and on the 
veranda steps she called back to him, 
" Good-night, Uncle Barn," in a voice that 
made him shake his head and mutter : — 

" De bressed chile ! De bressed chile ! " 

And yet he was aware that she had out- 
witted him and gained his secret. He 
knew how matters stood between the 
young lady and Tom Banister, and there 
arose in his mind a vivid sense of the dan- 
ger that might result to his own and Colo- 
nel Sommerton's plans from a disclosure 
of this one vital detail. Would Phyllis 
tell her lover? Barnaby shook his head 
in a dubious way. 

" Gals is pow'ful onsartin, so dey is," he 
muttered. " Dey tells der sweethearts 
mos'ly all what dey knows, spacially se- 
crets. Spec' de ole boss an' he plan done 



232 THE BALANCE OF POWER 

gone up de chimbly er-callyhootin' fo' 
good." 

Then the old scamp began to turn over 
in his brain a scheme which seemed to 
offer him a fair way of approaching Mr. 
Tom Banister's pocket and the portemon- 
naie of Phyllis as well. He chuckled atro- 
ciously as a pretty comprehensive view of 
" practical politics " opened itself to him. 

Tom Banister had not been to see 
Phyllis since her father had delivered his 
opinion to her touching the intrinsic mer- 
its of that young man, and she felt uneasy. 

Colonel Sommerton, though notably 
eccentric, could be depended upon for out- 
right dealing in general ; still Phyllis had 
a pretty substantial belief that in politics 
success lay largely on the side of the trick- 
ster. For many years the colonel had 
been in the Legislature. No man had 
been able to beat him for the nomination. 
Phyllis had often heard him tell how he 
laid out his antagonists by taking excellent 



THE BALANCE OF POWER 233 

and popular short turns on them, and it 
was plain to her mind now that he was 
weaving a snare for Tom Banister. 

She thought of Tom's running for office 
against her father as something prodi- 
giously strange. Certainly it was a bold 
and daring piece of youthful audacity for 
him to be guilty of. He, a young sprig of 
the law, with his brown moustache not yet 
grown, setting himself up to beat Colonel 
Mobley Sommerton ! Phyllis blushed 
whenever she thought of it ; but the colo- 
nel had never once mentioned Tom's 
candidacy to her. 

The convention was approaching, and 
day by day signs of popular interest in it 
increased as the time shortened. Colonel 
Sommerton was preparing a speech for 
the occasion. The manuscript of it lay 
on the desk in his library. 

About this time — it was near the ist 
of September, and the watermelons and 
cantaloupes were in their glory — the colo- 



234 THE BALANCE OF POWER 

nel was called away to a distant town for 
a few days. In his absence Tom Banis- 
ter chanced to visit Sommerton Place. Of 
course Phyllis was not expecting him ; 
indeed, she told him that he ought not to 
have come; but Tom thought differently 
in a very persuasive way. The melons 
were good, the library delightfully cool, 
and conversation caught the fragrance of 
innocent albeit stolen pleasure. 

Tom Banister was unquestionably a 
handsome young fellow, carrying a hearty, 
whole-souled expression in his open, al- 
most rosy face. His large brown eyes, 
curly brown hair, silken young moustache, 
and firmly set mouth and chin well matched 
his stalwart, symmetrical form. He was 
not only handsome, he was brilliant in a 
way, and his memory was something pro- 
digious. Unquestionably he would rise 
rapidly. 

" I am going to beat your father for the 
nomination," he remarked, midmost the 



THE BALANCE OF POWER 235 

discussion of their melons, speaking in a 
tone of absolute confidence. 

" Tom," she exclaimed, " you must n't 
do it ! " 

" Why. I 'd like to know ? " 

She looked at him as if she felt a sud- 
den fright. His eyes fell before her in- 
tense, searching gaze. 

" It would be dreadful," she presently 
managed to say. " Papa could n't bear it." 

" It will ruin me forever if I let him beat 
me. I shall have to go away from here." 
It was now his turn to become intense. 

" I don't see what makes men think so 
much of office," she complained evasively. 
" I 've heard papa say that there was abso- 
lutely no profit in going to the Legisla- 
ture." Then, becoming insistent she ex- 
claimed, " Withdraw, Tom ; please do, for 
my sake ! " 

She made a rudimentary movement as 
if to throw her arms around him, but it 
came to nothing. Her voice, however, 



236 THE BALANCE OF POWER 

carried a mighty appeal to Tom's heart. 
He looked at her, and thought how com- 
monplace other women were when com- 
pared with her. 

" You will withdraw, won't you, Tom } " 
she prayed. One of her hands touched 
his arm. " Say yes, Tom." 

For a moment his political ambition 
and his standing with men appeared to 
dissolve into a mere mist, a finely com- 
minuted sentiment of love ; but he kept a 
good hold upon himself. 

" I cannot do it, Phyllis," he said, in a 
firm voice, which disclosed by some inde- 
scribable inflection how much it pained 
him to refuse. " My whole future depends 
upon success in this race. I am sorry it 
is your father I must beat, but, Phyllis, I 
must be nominated. I can't afford to sit 
down in your father's shadow. As sure 
as you live I am going to beat him." 

In her heart she was proud of him, and 
proud of this resolution that not even she 



THE BALANCE OF POWER 237 

could break. From that moment she was 
between the millstones. She loved her fa- 
ther, it seemed to her, more than ever, she 
could not bear the thought of his defeat. 
Indeed, with that generosity characteris- 
tic of the sex, which can be truly humor- 
ous only when absolutely unconscious of 
it, she wanted both Tom and the colonel 
nominated, and both elected. She was 
the partisan on Tom's side, the adherent 
on her father's. 

Colonel Sommerton returned on the 
day before the convention, and found his 
friends enthusiastic, all his " fences " in 
good condition, and his nomination evi- 
dently certain. It followed that he was in 
high good-humor. He hugged Phyllis, 
and casually brought up the thought of 
how pleasantly they could spend the win- 
ter in Atlanta when the Legislature met. 

"But Tom — I mean Mr. Banister — 
is going to beat you, and get the nomina- 
tion," she archly remarked. 



238 THE BALANCE OF POWER 

" If he does, I '11 deed you Sommerton 
Place ! " As he spoke he glared at her as 
a lion might glare at thought of being de- 
feated by a cub. 

" To him and me ? " she inquired, with 
sudden eagerness of tone. " If he " — 

" Phyllis ! " he interrupted savagely, " no 
joking on that subject. I won't " — 

" No ; I 'm serious," she sweetly said. 
" If he can't beat you, I don't want him." 

" Zounds ! Is that a bargain ? " He 
laid his hand on her shoulder, and bent 
down so that his eyes were on a level with 
hers. 

" Yes," she replied ; " and I '11 hold you 
to it." 

" You promise me? " he insisted. 

" A man must go ahead of my papa," 
she said, putting her arms about the old 
gentleman's neck, " or I '11 stay by papa." 

He kissed her with atrocious violence. 
Even the knee-sag of his trousers sug- 
gested more than ordinary vigor of feeling. 



THE BALANCE OF POWER 239 

" Well, it 's good-by Tom," he said, 
pushing her away from him, and letting 
go a profound bass laugh. " I '11 settle 
him to-morrow." 

" You '11 see," she rejoined. " He may 
not be so easy to settle." 

He gave her a savage but friendly cuff 
as they parted. 

That evening old Barnaby brought his 
banjo around to the veranda. Colonel 
Sommerton was down in town mixing 
with the "boys," and doing up his final 
political chores so that there might be no 
slip on the morrow. It was near eleven 
o'clock when he came up the hill, and 
stopped at the gate to hear the song that 
Barnaby was singing. He supposed that 
the old negro was all alone. Certainly the 
captivating voice, with its unkempt mel- 
ody, and its throbbing, skipping, harum- 
scarum banjo accompaniment, was all that 
broke the silence of the place. 

His song was : — 



240 THE BALANCE OF POWER 

DE SASSAFRAS BLOOM. 

" Dey 's sugah in de win' when de sassafras bloom, 
When de little co'n fluttah in de row, 
When de robin in de tree, like er young gal in de loom, 
Sing sweet, sing sof, sing low. 

*' Oh, de sassafras blossom hab de keen smell o' de root, 
An' it hab sich er tender yaller green ! 
De co'n hit kinder twinkle when hit firs' begin ter shoot. 
While de bum'lebee hit bum'les in between. 

" Oh, de sassafras tassel, an' de young shoot o' de co'n, 
An' de young gal er-singing in de loom, 
Dey 's somefin' 'licious in 'em f 'om de day 'at dey is 
bo'n. 
An' dis darkey 's sort o' took er likin' to 'm. 

"Hit's kind o' sort o' glor'us when yo' feels so quare 
an' cur'us, 
An' yo' don' know what it is yo' wants ter do ; 
But I takes de chances on it 'at hit jes' can't be injur'us 
When de whole endurin' natur tells yo' to ! 

*' Den wake up, niggah, see de sassafras in bloom ! 
Lis'n how de sleepy wedder blow ! 
An' de robin in de haw-bush an' de young gal in de 
loom 
Is er-singin' so sof an' low." 



THE BALANCE OF POWER 241 

" Thank you, Barn ; here 's your dollar," 
said the voice of Tom Banister when the 
song was ended. "You may go now." 

And while Colonel Sommerton stood 
amazed, the young man came down the 
veranda steps with Phyllis on his arm. 
They stopped when they reached the 
ground. 

"Good -night, dear. I '11 win you to- 
morrow or my name is not Tom Banis- 
ter. I '11 win you, and Sommerton Place 
too." And when they parted he came 
right down the walk between the trees, to 
run almost against Colonel Sommerton. 

"Why, good-evening, colonel," he said, 
with a cordial, liberal spirit in his voice. 
" I have been waiting in hopes of seeing 
you." 

" You '11 get enough of me to-morrow 
to last you a lifetime, sah," promptly re- 
sponded the old man, marching straight 
on into the house. Nothing could express 
more concentrated, and yet comprehen- 



242 THE BALANCE OF POWER 

sive contempt than Colonel Sommerton's 
manner. 

" The impudent young scamp," he 
growled. " I '11 show him ! " 

Phyllis sprang from ambush behind a 
vine, and covered her father's face with 
warm kisses, then broke away before he 
could say a word, and ran up to her room. 

In the distant kitchen, Barnaby was 
singing: — 

" Kicked so high I broke my neck, 

An' fling my right foot off'm my leg ; 
Went to work mos' awful quick, 
An' mended 'em wid er wooden peg." 

Next morning, at nine o'clock sharp, the 
convention was called to order, General 
John Tolliver in the chair. Speeches were 
expected, and it had been arranged that 
Tom Banister should first appear. Colonel 
Sommerton would follow, and then the bal- 
lot would be taken. 

This order of business showed the fine 
tactics of the colonel, who well understood 



THE BALANCE OF POWER 243 

how much advantage lay in the vivid im= 
pression of a closing speech. 

As the two candidates made their way 
from opposite directions through the 
throng to the platform, which was under a 
tree in a beautiful suburban grove, both 
were greeted with effusive warmth by ad= 
miring constituents. Many women were 
present, and Tom Banister felt the blood 
surge mightily through his veins at sight 
of Phyllis standing tall and beautiful be= 
fore him with her hand extended. 

" If you lose, die game, Tom," she mur- 
mured, as he pressed her fingers and 
passed on. 

The young man's appearance on the 
stand called forth a tremendous roar of 
applause. Certainly he was popular. 
Colonel Sommerton felt a queer shock of 
surprise thrill along his nerves. Could it 
be possible that he would lose ? No ; the 
thought was intolerable. He sat a trifle 
straighter on his bench, and began gather- 



244 THE BALANCE OF POWER 

ing the points of his well-conned speech. 
He saw old Barnaby moving around the 
rim of the crowd, apparently looking for a 
seat. 

Meantime Tom was proceeding in a 
clear, soft, far-reaching voice. The colonel 
started and looked askance. What did it 
mean ? At first his brain was confused, 
but presently he understood. Word for 
word, sentence for sentence, paragraph for 
paragraph, Tom was delivering the colo- 
nel's own sonorous speech ! Of course 
the application was reversed here and 
there, so that the wit, the humor, and the 
personal thrusts all went home. It was a 
wonderful piece of ad captandum oratory. 
The crowd went wild from start to finish. 

Colonel Mobley Sommerton sat dazed 
and stupefied, mopping his forehead and 
trying to collect his faculties. He felt 
beaten, annihilated, while Tom soared su- 
perbly on the wings of Sommertonian ora- 
tory so mysteriously at his command. 



THE BALANCE OF POWER 245 

From a most eligible point of view Phyl- 
lis was gazing at Tom, and receiving the 
full brilliant current of his speech, and she 
appeared to catch a fine stimulus from the 
flow of its opening sentences. As it pro- 
ceeded her face alternately flushed and 
paled, and her heart pounded heavily. All 
around rose the tumult of unbridled ap- 
plause. Men flung up their hats and 
yelled themselves hoarse. A speech of 
that sort from a young fellow like Tom 
Banister was something to create irre- 
pressible enthusiasm. It ended in such a 
din that when General John Duff Tolliver 
arose to introduce Colonel Sommerton he 
had to wait for some time to be heard. 

The situation was one that absolutely 
appalled, though it did not quite paralyze, 
the old candidate, who, even after he had 
gained his feet and stalked to the front of 
the rude rostrum, was as empty of thought 
as he was full of despair. This sudden 
and unexpected appropriation of his great 



246 THE BALANCE OF POWER 

speech had sapped and stupefied his intel- 
lect. He slowly swept the crowd with his 
dazed eyes, and by some accident the only 
countenance clearly visible to him was that 
of old Barnaby, who now sat far back on 
a stump, looking for all the world like 
a mightily mystified baboon. The negro 
winked and grimaced, and scratched his 
flat nose in sheer vacant stupidity. Colonel 
Sommerton saw this, and it added an en- 
feebling increment to his mental torpor. 

" Fellow-citizens," he presently roared, in 
his melodious bass voice, " I am proud of 
this honor." He was not sure of another 
word as he stood with bagging trousers 
and sweat-beaded face, but he made a su- 
perhuman effort to call up his comatose 
wits. " I should be ungrateful were I not 
proud of this great demonstration." Just 
then his gaze fell upon the face of his 
daughter. Their eyes met with a mutual 
flash of retrospection. They were remem- 
bering the bargain. The colonel was not 



THE BALANCE OF POWER 247 

aware of it, but the deliberateness and vocal 
volume of his opening phrases made them 
very impressive. " I assure you," he went 
on, fumbling for something to say, " that 
my heart is brimming with gratitude, so 
that my lips find it hard to utter the words 
that crowd into my mind." At this some 
kindly friend in the audience gingerly set 
going a ripple of applause, which, though 
evidently forced, was like wine to the old 
man's intellect ; it flung a glow through his 
imagination. 

" The speech you have heard the youth- 
ful limb of the law declaim is a very good 
one, a very eloquent one indeed. If it were 
his own I should not hesitate to say right 
here that I ought to stand aside and let 
him be nominated; but, fellow-citizens, that 
speech belongs to another and far more 
distinguished and eligible man than Tom 
Banister." Here he paused again, and 
stood silent for a moment. Then, lifting 
his voice to a clarion pitch, he added : — 



248 THE BALANCE OF POWER 

" Fellow-citizens, I wrote that speech, 
intending to deliver it here to-day. I was 
called to Canton on business early in the 
week, and during my absence Tom Banis- 
ter went to my house and got my manu- 
script and learned it by heart. To prove 
to you that what I say is true, I will now 
read." 

At this point the colonel, after deliber- 
ately wiping his glasses, drew from his 
capacious coat-pocket the manuscript of 
his address, and proceeded to read it word 
for word, just as Banister had declaimed 
it. The audience listened in silence^ quite 
unable to comprehend the situation. There 
was no applause. Evidently sentiment was 
dormant, or it was still with Tom. Colonel 
Sommerton, feeling the desperation of the 
moment, reached forth at random, and see- 
ing Barnaby's old black face, it amused him, 
and he chanced to grab a thought as if out 
of the expression he saw there. 

" Fellow-citizens," he added, " there is 



THE BALANCE OF POWER 249 

one thing I desire to say upon this impor- 
tant occasion. Whatever you do, be sure 
not to nominate to-day a man who would, 
if elected, ally himself with the niggers. I 
don't pretend to hint that my young oppo- 
nent, Tom Banister, would favor nigger 
rule, but I do say — do you hear me, fellow- 
citizens ? — I do say that every nigger in 
this country is a Banister man ! How do 
I know ? I will tell you. Last Saturday 
night the niggers had a meeting in an old 
stable on my premises. Wishing to know 
what they were up to, I stole slyly to where 
I could overhear their proceedings. My 
old nigger, Barnaby, — yonder he sits, and 
he can't deny it, — was presiding, and the 
question before the meeting was, ' Which 
of the two candidates, Tom Banister and 
Colonel Sommerton, shall we niggers sup- 
port ? ' On this question there was some 
debate and difference of opinion, until old 
Bob Warmus arose and said, ' Mistah Pres'- 
dent, dey 's no use er-talkin' ; I likes Colo- 



250 THE BALANCE OF POWER 

nel Sommerton mighty well ; he 's a berry 
good man ; dey 's not a bit er niggah in 'im. 
On t' Oder han', Mistah Pres'dent, Mistah 
Tom Banistah is er white man too, jes' de 
same ; but I kin say fo' Mistah Banistah 'at 
he 's mo' like er niggah 'an any white man 
'at I ebber seed afore ! ' " . 

Here the colonel paused to wait for the 
shouting and the hat-throwing to subside. 
Meantime the face of old Barnaby was 
drawn into one indescribable pucker of 
amazement. He could not believe his 
eyes or his ears. Surely that was not Colo- 
nel Sommerton standing up there telling 
such an enormous falsehood on him ! He 
shook his woolly head dolefully and gnawed 
a little splinter that he had plucked from a 
stump. 

" Of course, fellow-citizens," the Colonel 
went on, " that settled the matter, and the 
niggers indorsed Tom Banister unani- 
mously by a rising vote ! " 

The yell that went up when the speaker, 



THE BALANCE OF POWER 25 1 

bowing profoundly, took his seat, made it 
seem certain that Banister would be 
beaten ; but when the ballot was taken it 
was found that he had been chosen by one 
vote majority. 

Colonel Mobley Sommerton'sface turned 
as white as his hair. The iron of defeat 
went home to his proud heart with terrible 
effect, and as he tried to rise the features of 
the hundreds of countenances below him 
swam and blended confusedly on his vision. 
The sedentary bubbles on the knees of his 
trousers fluttered with sympathetic vio- 
lence. 

Tom Banister was on his feet in a mo- 
ment. It was an appealing look from Phyl- 
lis that inspired him, and once more his 
genial voice rang out clear and strong. 

" Fellow-citizens," he said, " I have a mo- 
tion to make. Hear me." He waved his 
right hand to command silence, then pro- 
ceeded : " Mr. President, I withdraw my 
name from this convention, and move that 



252 THE BALANCE OF POWER 

the nomination of Colonel Mobley Som- 
merton be made unanimous by acclamation. 
I have no right to this nomination, and no- 
thing, save a matter greater than life or 
death to me, could have induced me to steal 
it as I this day have done. Colonel Som- 
merton knows why I did it. He gave his 
word of honor that he would cease all ob- 
jections to giving his daughter to me in 
marriage, and that furthermore he would 
deed Sommerton Place to us as a wedding- 
present, if I beat him for the nomination. 
Mr, President and fellow-citizens, do you 
blame me for memorizing his speech ? 
That magnificent speech meant to me the 
most beautiful wife in America, and the 
handsomest estate in this noble county." 

If Tom Banister had been boisterously 
applauded before this, it was as nothing be- 
side the noise which followed when Colonel 
Sommerton was declared the unanimous 
nominee of the convention. Meantime 
Phyllis had hurried to the carriage and 



THE BALANCE OF POWER 253 

been driven home : she dared not stay and 
let the crowd gaze at her after that bold 
confession of Tom's. 

The cheering for the nominee was yet at 
its flood when Banister leaped at Colonel 
Sommerton and grasped his hand. The 
old gentleman was flushed and smiling, as 
became a politician so wonderfully favored. 
It was a moment never to be forgotten by 
either of the men. 

" I cordially congratulate you, Colonel 
Sommerton, on your nomination," said Tom, 
with great feeling, " and you may count on 
my hearty support." 

" If I don't have to support you, and pay 
your office rent in the bargain, all the rest 
of my life, I miss my guess, you young 
scamp ! " growled the colonel, in a major 
key. " Be off with you ! " 

Tom moved away to let the colonel's 
friends crowd up and shake hands with 
him ; but the delighted youth could not 
withhold a Parthian shaft. As he retreated 



254 THE BALANCE OF POWER 

he said : " Oh, Colonel Sommerton, don't 
bother about my support; Sommerton 
Plantation will be ample for that ! " 

" Hit do beat all thunder how dese white 
men syfoogles eroun' in politics," old Bar- 
naby thought to himself. Then he rattled 
the coins in his two pockets. The contri- 
butions of Colonel Sommerton chinked on 
the left, those of Tom Banister and Phyllis 
rang on the right. 

" Blame this here ole chile's eyes," he 
went on, " but 't war a close shabe ! Seem 
lak I 's kinder holdin' de balernce ob power. 
I use my infloonce fer bofe ob 'em — yah, 
yah, yah-r-r ! an' hit did look lak I 's gwin 
ter balernce fings up tell I 'lee' 'em bofe ter 
oncet right dar ! Bofe ob 'em got de nom- 
ernation — yah, yah, yah-r-r ! But I say 
'rah fo' little Miss Phyllis ! She de one 'at 
know how to pull de right string — yah, 
yah, yah-r-r ! " 

The wedding at Sommerton Place came 
on the Wednesday following the fall elec- 



THE BALANCE OF POWER 255 

tion. Besides the great number of guests 
and the striking beauty of the bride, there- 
was nothing notable in it, unless the song 
prepared by Barnaby for the occasion, and 
sung by him thereupon to a captivating 
banjo accompaniment, may be so distin- 
guished. A stanza, the final one of that 
masterpiece, has been preserved. It may 
serve as an informal ending, a charcoal tail- 
piece, to our light but truthful little story. 

" Stan' by yo' frien's and nebber mek trouble, 
An' so, e£ yo 's got any sense, 
Yo '11 know hit 's a good t'ing ter be sorter double, 
An' walk on bofe sides ob de fence ! " 



CAMBRIDGE. MASSACHUSETTS, U. S. A. 

KLKCTROTYPED AND PRINTED BY 

H. O. HOUGHTON AND CO. 




/^ 



'•^^. 



f 



RARE BOOK 
COLLECTION 




BRARY OF THE 
VERSITY OF 
PH CAROLINA 

AT 
[APEL HILL 



ilmer 
060